Book and Audio Review: Level 13

It’s almost summer, so it’s time to travel! What better to bring along on a trip than a book…or a book on CD? Here’s one the whole family will enjoy!

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Level 13: a Slacker Novel
By Gordon Korman

performed by Jessica Almasy, Quincy Dunn-Baker, Christopher Gebauer and Jonathan Todd Ross
5 CDs, 5.75 Hours

Cameron Boxer is a dedicated student. Dedicated to beating online video games, that is! His grand goal in life is to make a living (and a fortune!) streaming online for other gamers. So his whole being is wrapped up in besting his last score and learning all the cheats and hacks for his favorites. Someday, he wants to be like Draja Dubrovnik, his online gamer hero. School? Who needs it! Cam knows he can get enough of an audience to become famous.

His friends don’t really seem to know that through. No, they think he’s some kind of hero for coming up with the P.A.G.–the Positive Action Group. What is the P.A.G.? Only the best thing to happen to Sycamore Middle School in, like, forever! (according to the Daphne Leibowitz anyway, one of the girls in the school). Cam actually came up with the idea to get his parents off his back about spending too much time online. It wasn’t supposed to be a REAL club! But now there are 874 group members, and Cameron is the head of it. The club has done all kinds of community service–from walking old ladies across the street to painting orphanages to picking up garbage. The funny thing is, everyone thinks Cam is some kind of genius for coming up with the P.A.G., although he mostly wants to slither out of those responsibilities.

So when Cam is invited to a party when he would rather be gaming, he has no idea that it’s the first step in a slippery slope leading to more P.A.G. stuff. He was just going to make an appearance! But no, cool kid Jordan is asking him–Cam Boxer!–for advice. Xavier, the school delinquent, has brought him cookies for some bake sale he seems convinced Cam knows about, and worst of all, he discovers that know-it-all Daphne Leibowitz is dating one of his two best friends–Chuck.

Things go downhill from there. Daphne has decided that the P.A.G. need to raise funds to repair the Library. Not only does that suck up all Cam’s gaming time, but the Awesome Threesome–Cam, Chuck and Pavel, their third best friend–now have responsibilities! But at the first event for the Library Fund Raiser, Cam finds a discarded copy of Guardians of Geldorf. And it’s not the ordinary version, but the very first version of the game. A first edition with the secret level–Level 13–that was banned in 47 states. The game was pulled from the market and an updated version re-released with Level 13 deleted in future editions because of “inappropriate content.” But Cam has the original right in his hands.

Can he use Guardians to become famous?

Take one slacker gamer, add a few classmates with no clue, one annoyed sister who does have a clue, and two best friends, one of whom is part of the new ‘ship Duckne. Add a suspicious teacher, a video-obsessed beaver named Elvis and a suspected stalker. The problems pile on, and Cam is soon running himself ragged trying to be famous. Not everyone is on board with his plan, but he’s going to make a valiant effort! It’s a lot of work to be a slacker in Level 13!

The audio recording of Level 13 is absolutely, hysterically wonderful! The chapters in the book alternate between Cam, Chuck, Pavel, Daphne, Mr. Fanshaw, Melody Boxer and brief appearances from other characters in the book. This means that different voice actors provide each character, making it much easier to distinguish between points of view. The kids sound like kids, the teacher sounds like a teacher, and everyone is spot on with their characterizations. I loved all their voices.

This is an extremely funny book. It’s the sequel to Slacker, and although it would probably be best to read that first, it’s not necessary. Slacker is basically the story of how the P.A.G. got started, and where Elvis came from. You can enjoy Level 13 without that background knowledge, but of course, it is better with it.

Cam Boxer reminds me of a younger Ferris Bueller. He’s spends more energy trying not to expend energy. His schemes to more good than harm, and he has the unknowing support of an entire school behind him. Even his “enemies” are annoyed with him because he’s successful. But in Level 13, you can see the scheming from inside…and figure out why things fall the way they do. Plus, there’s the added viewpoint of all Cam’s friends and acquaintances.

Level 13 is probably best for kids grades four through seven, who like humor and wacky plots. It’s classic Gordon Korman at his scheming best. The audio would be good for all ages. If you haven’t, you could also read or listen to Slacker, the first book in this set.

Some read-alikes are all the MacDonald Hall books by Gordon Korman, the Charlie Joe Jackson series by Tommy Greenwald, The Strange Case of Origami Yoda by Tom Angleberger, Ms. Bixby’s Last Day by John David Anderson, The Perfect Score by Rob Buyea, The Season of Styx Malone by Kekla Magoon, and Three Times Lucky by Sheila Turnage.

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So is Cam Boxer an over-achiever or a slacker? You’ll have to read the book and decide for yourself.

I think he would be an interesting friend to have though. And he makes me want to go find my really old Gordon Korman books to see how his characters evolved. Cam is a lot like Boots and Bruno, Bugs Potter and Rudy Miller. Don’t know who those people are? Maybe it’s time to shop Canadian bookstores!

As always, if you need help finding these, or any other books, ask one of our librarians for help. We love matching books and readers!

Happy Reading!
::Kelly::

Book and Audio Review: The Vanderbeekers to the Rescue

Looking for a good read? (Or listen?) Look no further!

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The Vanderbeekers to the Rescue
by Karina Van Glaser, Narrated by Robin Miles
5 CDs, 6.25 Hours

The Vanderbeekers live in New York City; on 141st Street in Harlem, to be precise. In a lovely brownstone in a tight-knit neighborhood. Twins Jessie and Isa, Oliver, Hyacinth and Laney all love their home, and think it’s the only place in the world to live. (It would have to be, with how hard they fought to keep it in the first book in this series–The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street.) And it’s not only the Vanderbeeker kids who love the brownstone…it’s also Franz the basset hound, Paganini the rabbit, George Washington their tabby cat, and even their visiting upstairs neighbor’s cat, Princess Cutie. Over the years, they’ve befriended the entire neighborhood and even created a beautiful garden to share. But as life goes on, things are always changing…

In The Vanderbeekers to the Rescue, the third in the series, word of Mama’s delicious baking has spread far and wide. Every day, she has more customers calling on her skills for cookies and pies and other baked goods. She’s becoming so successful that she’s left her horrible accounting job and started a home bakery. The kids definitely don’t mind…not when they get to try out new recipes and eat the extras! Mama has become so popular, in fact, that a famous New York magazine reaches out to her to do a story on her bakery. The kids all promise to help get the kitchen ready for a magazine photo shoot, but between homework and music lessons and tree house planning and a variety of illnesses and emergencies, it just doesn’t happen. So when Mama has to rush out to meet with the editor of Perch Magazine in preparation for the article, she shouts to Jessie that she should be home before the inspector arrives, and leaves. What inspector?

The inspector arrives before Mama gets home, and the kids decide to let him in. Mama knew he was coming, after all, and an inspection of the brownstone is probably something the city has to do. Plus, it’s raining, and the poor man doesn’t even have an umbrella.

Mr. West is not an animal person, and although the house is clean, there are rabbits and dogs and cats and kids everywhere. Mr. West is NOT impressed. In fact, he’s extremely grumpy about all the animals, and how they seem to be able to roam anywhere in the house. The kids show him around, but he only seems to be interested in the kitchen, not the rest of the brownstone. When Paganini and Franz start playing and knock over a plate of cookies, (which Laney promptly picks up and offers Mr. West following the “five second rule”) Mr. West gives the kids a copy of the papers on his clipboard and tells them that the license for their mother’s home baking business has been revoked, and she can no longer use their kitchen to run her baking.

The kids are shocked. This was not a building inspection, but a kitchen inspection for Mama’s baking business? How can they possibly tell Mama they’ve ruined her dream? That she can’t continue to bake and has to go back to being an accountant? They can’t. So the Vanderbeekers come up with a plan. They’ll reschedule the inspection and plan to get everything fixed up before the inspector returns.

But when Isa calls, pretending to be their mother, it turns out the only appointment they can get gives them only a week. A week? There’s no way that’s enough time! But they are the Vanderbeekers, and they can do anything.

Right..?

Wrong.

Between Isa’s violin music school entry exam, a box of kittens left on their doorstep, chickens appearing in the yard, Mama’s birthday, mysterious packages arriving and tree house building, cleaning up the kitchen in a week is definitely not happening. Will the Vanderbeekers be able to fix their epic mistake and help Mama keep her business? Will enough love and friendship get them through this new catastrophe? The Vanderbeekers are willing to try!

The audio of The Vanderbeekers to the Rescue is beautifully done. I listened in the car on a long drive, and it definitely made the time pass faster. Robin Miles has a lovely voice, and her narration is wonderful. The individual voices of all the adults are excellent; she does a range of accents and vocal timbres, and the listener might even think it’s a full cast reading, they sound so different. I did feel like the kids sometimes sounded a little too alike–occasionally I couldn’t tell who was talking–but that’s a relatively small issue in the grand picture. There’s enough description in the narration to pick up the clues. This is definitely a story that can be enjoyed over and over by families.

In a previous entry, I had reviewed the first book; The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street and loved it as well.

The Vanderbeekers to the Rescue is a wonderful addition to this series, which now stands at four titles, with a fifth book coming in September 2021. Although each of the stories build on the previous one, it is possible to read them out of order, as each episode is self-contained. It’s not easy to come up with normal true-life stories for a family of five, but this wonderful series keeps the characters alive and changing in each volume. The Vanderbeekers are slated to join the Penderwicks, the Quimbys, the Moodys and the Hatchers in well-known families of children’s literature.

The kids in the Vanderbeekers book series range from five years old to seventh graders (as of this title), but the book is probably best enjoyed by third through fifth grade readers. (Although readers who love the family will probably enjoy it right to the final volume, no matter how old they are.) For listening, it would be fun for all ages, and perfect for a wide range of listeners. There’s something here for everyone.

Some read-alikes for The Vanderbeekers to the Rescue are The Lotterys Plus One by Emma Donoghue, Cupcake Cousins by Kate Hannigan, The House that Lou Built by Mae Respicio, The Misadventures of the Family Fletcher by Dana Alison Levy, and A Long Line of Cakes by Deborah Wiles.

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So check out this wonderful family, their pets, their neighbors and their friends next time you need an audiobook. You will be happy you did!

As always, if you need help finding these, or any other books or audiobooks in our collection, please ask one of our librarians for help. And if you would like a new suggestion, ask us that too! We love matching readers and books…or audiobooks!

Happy Reading!
::Kelly::

5 Books Featuring…Good Wolves!

Wolves get a bad rap, there’s no disputing that. From knocking down little pig houses to gobbling grannies to following a boy named Peter…there’s no end to the Big Badness of Fairytale Wolves.

But really, wolves are admirable animals. They educate their young, they’re playful, and most of all, they’re completely devoted to their families. So here are some GOOD wolves in fantasy literature…something to get the image of wolves as bad characters out of your mind forever!

Our Five Books feature is a booklist of five books (occasionally with a few extras) on a specific topic, with a short synopsis so you can decide if it sounds like something you would like. Five Books–One Old, One New, One Popular with Kids, One Well-Reviewed, and One Favorite. (But you’ll have to guess which is which)!

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Loki’s Wolves by K. L.  Armstrong

While thirteen-year-old Matt Thorsen has always known he’s a modern-day descendent of Thor, he’s been living a normal kid’s life. In fact, most people in the small town of Blackwell, South Dakota, are direct descendants of either Thor or Loki, including Matt’s classmates Fen and Laurie Brekke. No big deal.

But now Ragnarok is coming, and it’s up to the champions to fight in the place of the long-dead gods. Matt, Laurie, and Fen’s lives will never be the same as they race to put together an unstoppable team, find Thor’s hammer and shield, and prevent the end of the world.

A Royal Guide to Monster Slaying by Kelley Armstrong

Rowan is destined to be Queen; her twin brother, Rhydd, to be Royal Monster Hunter. Rowan would give anything to switch places, but the oldest child is always next in line, even if she is only older by two minutes. She resigns herself to admiring her monster hunting aunt’s glorious sword and joining her queen mother for boring diplomatic teas. But tragedy shatters the longstanding rule, and Rowan finds herself hunting the most dangerous monster of all: a gryphon.

Accompanied by a feisty baby jackalope and a giant wolf that barely tolerates her, Rowan sets off on a journey that will see her join other unlikely allies: a boy with monster-hunting ambitions of his own, and a girl hiding dangerous motives. It will take all of Rowan’s skills, both physical and diplomatic, to keep this adventure on track. The future of her kingdom depends on it.


Escape from Wolfhaven Castle by Kate Forsyth

Tell your lord to beware, the wolves smell danger in the wind… Wolfhaven Castle has been attacked, and only four escape capture …

Tom is trained to scrub pots not fight, Elanor is the Lord’s daughter, Sebastian is a knight in training and Quinn is the witch’s apprentice. They’re the only four to escape capture after Wolfhaven Castle is attacked. Somehow, if they are to save their people, these unlikely heroes must find four magical beasts from legend. But first, they have to make it out of the castle alive…

The first book of The Impossible Quest series

The Wolf Wilder by Katherine Rundell

Feo’s life is extraordinary. Her mother trains domesticated wolves to be able to fend for themselves in the snowy wilderness of Russia, and Feo is following in her footsteps to become a wolf wilder. She loves taking care of the wolves, especially the three who stay at the house because they refuse to leave Feo, even though they’ve already been wilded.

But not everyone is enamored with the wolves, or with the fact that Feo and her mother are turning them wild. And when her mother is taken captive, Feo must travel through the cold, harsh woods to save her–and learn from her wolves how to survive.


Ice Wolves by Amie Kaufman

Everyone in Vallen knows that ice wolves and scorch dragons are sworn enemies who live deeply separate lives.

So when orphan Anders takes one elemental form and his twin sister, Rayna, takes another, he wonders whether they are even related. Family or not, Rayna is Anders’s only true friend. She’s nothing like the brutal, cruel dragons who claimed her as one of their own and stole her away.

To rescue her, Anders must enlist at the foreboding Ulfar Academy, a school for young wolves that values loyalty to the pack above all else. But for Anders, loyalty is more complicated than obedience, and friendship is the most powerful shapeshifting force of all. Will he find Rayna again, and if he does, will she be the same sister he remembers?

A Walk in Wolf Wood by Mary Stewart

John and Margaret Begbie are picnicking with their parents in the Black Forest when they are mysteriously spirited back through time into the Middle Ages. There they meet Mardian, one-time servant and closest friend of Duke Otho, ruler of the country. He tells them a terrible secret – he is under the enchantment of the evil sorcerer Almeric, and is forced to assume a wolf’s shape every night. Unable to return to the castle, the children are his only hope.

And so John and Margaret disguise themselves as children of the court and embark on a thrilling and frightening quest to reveal Almeric’s true nature and gain the Duke’s confidence. But then Almeric becomes suspicious, and suddenly all their lives are in danger…

A Wolf for a Spell by Karah Sutton

Since she was a pup, Zima has been taught to fear humans–especially witches–but when her family is threatened, she has no choice but to seek help from the witch Baba Yaga.

Baba Yaga never does magic for free, but it just so happens that she needs a wolf’s keen nose for a secret plan she’s brewing . . . Before Zima knows what’s happening, the witch has cast a switching spell and run off into the woods, while Zima is left behind in Baba Yaga’s hut–and Baba Yaga’s body!

Meanwhile, a young village girl named Nadya is also seeking the witch’s help, and when she meets Zima (in Baba Yaga’s form), they discover that they face a common enemy. With danger closing in, Zima must unite the wolves, the witches and the villagers against an evil that threatens them all.

Mooncakes by Suzanne Walker

A story of love and demons, family and witchcraft. Nova Huang knows more about magic than your average teen witch. She works at her grandmothers’ bookshop, where she helps them loan out spell books and investigate any supernatural occurrences in their New England town.

One fateful night, she follows reports of a white wolf into the woods, and she comes across the unexpected: her childhood crush, Tam Lang, battling a horse demon in the woods. As a werewolf, Tam has been wandering from place to place for years, unable to call any town home. Pursued by dark forces eager to claim the magic of wolves and out of options, Tam turns to Nova for help.

United in purpose, they work to save Tam against the backdrop of witchcraft, untested magic, occult rituals, and family ties both new and old.

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And there you have it! Good wolves, helping people, protecting family and saving their world. Do you know of any other good wolves in books of fantasy? There are several books that are realistic fiction featuring wolves too…A Wolf Called Wander by Rosanne Parry, Lone Wolf by Katherine Lasky, Summer of the Wolves by Polly Carlson-Voiles, and Julie of the Wolves by Jean Craighead George all come to mind. But there are many, many more.

If you would like to learn more about real wolves, the Dewey Decimal number is J 599.77 or J 599.773.

As always, if you need help finding any of the books on this list, or if you would like assistance finding these, or any other titles, just ask one of our librarians. We love to match readers and books!

Happy Reading!
::Kelly::

5 Books Featuring…Mars!

So if you’ve been watching the news at all lately, you’ve probably seen Mars come up. Yesterday, scientists flew a droid/helicopter over the surface of the planet! Although it’s only one small thing, it’s a giant step for knowing how Mars works. Maybe the first step towards eventual colonization of the red planet…

In these books, Mars has already been settled, and people–families–are already living there. What would it be like to live on Mars? Glitz and glamor…or a lot of hard work? Check out these 5 Books Featuring Kids who Live on Mars!

Our Five Books feature is a booklist of five books (occasionally with a few extras) on a specific topic, with a short synopsis so you can decide if it sounds like something you would like. Five Books–One Old, One New, One Popular with Kids, One Well-Reviewed, and One Favorite. (But you’ll have to guess which is which)!

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Once Upon a Space-Time! by Jeffery Brown
Jide and Petra are just two normal kids until they are selected to leave Earth and join their new alien classmates on an intergalactic research mission to Mars. Too bad Petra has no idea how she ended up in the program, seeing as the closest she wants to get to space is being a sci-fi writer. Jide, on the other hand, is the brains of the mission, but his helicopter parents make it clear he hasn’t left their gravitational pull behind quite yet.  What is meant to be an intra-species bonding experience soon turns to hijinx as the kids discover The Potato orbiting around their new space classroom and accidentally launch a mission of their own without any adult commanders around to supervise–or help!

Last Day on Mars by Kevin Emerson
It is Earth year 2213–but, of course, there is no Earth anymore. Not since it was burned to a cinder by the sun, which has mysteriously begun the process of going supernova. The human race has fled to Mars, but this was only a temporary solution while we have prepared for a second trip: a one-hundred-fifty-year journey to a distant star, our best guess at where we might find a new home. Liam Saunders-Chang is one of the last humans left on Mars. The son of two scientists who have been racing against time to create technology vital to humanity’s survival, Liam, along with his friend Phoebe, will be on the last starliner to depart before Mars, like Earth before it, is destroyed. Or so he thinks. Because before this day is over, Liam and Phoebe will make a series of profound discoveries about the nature of time and space and find out that the human race is just one of many in our universe locked in a dangerous struggle for survival.

Lion of Mars by Jennifer Holm
Bell has spent his whole life – all eleven years of it – on Mars. But he’s still just a regular kid – he loves cats, any kind of cake, and is curious about the secrets the adults in the US colony are keeping. Like, why don’t have contact with anyone on the other Mars colonies? Why are they so isolated? When a virus breaks out and the grown-ups all fall ill, Bell and the other children are the only ones who can help. It’s up to Bell – a regular kid in a very different world – to uncover the truth and save his family … and possibly unite an entire planet.  Mars may be a world far, far away, but  it can’t help but feel like home.

The Winds of Mars by H.M. Hoover
Annalyn Reynolds Court is one of many children of the powerful, handsome president of Mars. Like her favorite half-brother Evan, she must enroll at the elite military academy There they will train to be presidential bodyguards and alwao learn how to defend their fragile, crystal-domed environment.  But at school, Annalyn learns more about the real problems on Mars—the struggle between the commoners and the elites.   When rebel forces strike against her father, Annalyn finds her comfortable existence turned upside-down and her life threatened from unexpected sources.

The Moon Platoon by Jeramey Kraatz
In the year 2085, Benny Love is pretty used to surviving on what he and his family can scavenge on Earth. But when he wins a scholarship for a life-changing trip to visit the Lunar Taj, the first-ever resort on the Moon, Benny thinks he finally has a chance to give his family a better life. Benny can’t wait to fly his very own Space Runner, practice reverse bungee jumping, and explore craters on the dark side of the Moon. But he gets more than he expected when he and the other kids discover the Moon has secrets no one else knows about. Benny is a long way from home–and soon there might not be an Earth to go back to.

Mars Evacuees by Sophia McDougal
When Earth comes under attack by aliens, hilarious heroine Alice Dare and a select group of kids are sent to Mars. But things get very strange when the adults disappear into thin air, the kids face down an alien named Thsaaa, and Alice and her friends must save the galaxy!  For when plucky twelve-year-old Alice Dare learns she’s being taken out of the Muckling Abbott School for Girls and sent to another planet, no one knows what to expect. This is one wild ride that will have kids chuckling the whole way through.

We’re Not From Here by Geoff Rodkey
The first time I heard about Planet Choom, we’d been on Mars for almost a year. But life on the Mars station was grim, and since Earth was no longer an option (we may have blown it up), it was time to find a new home. That’s how we ended up on Choom with the Zhuri. They’re very smart. They also look like giant mosquitos. But that’s not why it’s so hard to live here. There’s a lot that the Zhuri don’t like- singing (just ask my sister, Ila), comedy (one joke got me sent to the principal’s office), or any kind of emotion. The biggest problem, though? The Zhuri don’t like us. And if humankind is going to survive, it’s up to my family to change their minds. No pressure.

The Countdown Conspiracy by Katie Slivensky
Miranda Regent can’t believe she was just chosen as one of six kids from around the world to train for the first ever mission to Mars. But as soon as the official announcement is made, she begins receiving anonymous threatening messages…and when the training base is attacked, it looks like Miranda is the intended target. Now the entire mission–and everyone’s lives–are at risk. And Miranda may be the only one who can save them. 

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I guess I went a little over this time…so many Mars books. Of course, I can’t find the one book that I remember reading years ago that was “the best one ever!”. It’s not Have Spacesuit, Will Travel or The Lotus Caves...those are both set on the moon. It’s not Podkayne of Mars, because we don’t own that one. It’s not something by Monica Hughes, H.M. Hoover or Alexander Keys, because those are all on unnamed planets.

Oh well. If you know of a great story that takes place on Mars that was written sometime between 1960 and 1985-ish, let me know! Maybe it will be the “old book” I remember reading. Until then, enjoy these selections.

As always, if you need help finding these or any other books, just ask at the desk. Our librarians love to help match books and readers!

Happy Reading!
::kelly::

5 Books Featuring…Class Trips that Went Really, Really Wrong!

Some class trips are fun; trips to the sugaring house, trips to the local amusement park, camping trips or visits to Washington, D.C.

These books do not feature those trips.

No, these are class trips that go horribly, terribly wrong…and leave a bunch of kids struggling to survive. They only have each other to count on, and they better hope that at least one kid in the group has some survival skills! If not, their trip could cost them their lives…

Everyone has heard of (and hopefully read!) the survival classics Hatchet, Island of the Blue Dolphins, and My Side of the Mountain. Those kids survived on their own, against incredible odds. But what would happen if you were stuck with a whole group of kids? Would that make surviving easier…or almost impossible?

Our Five Books feature is a booklist of five books (occasionally with a few extras) on a specific topic, with a short synopsis so you can decide if it sounds like something you would like. Five Books–One Old, One New, One Popular with Kids, One Well-Reviewed, and One Favorite. (But you’ll have to guess which is which)!

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A Talent for Trouble by Natasha Farrant
Alice Mistlethwaite likes to write about fantastic adventures, but isn’t at all interested in having them herself. She never expected to find herself roughing it in the wilds of Scotland with her classmates. She also never expected to diverge from the school’s planned orienteering route for any reason. But when she learns her unpredictable father is possibly nearby, desperate to meet up with him, quiet Alice persuades Jesse and Fergus, two of her boarding school friends to abandon their class orienteering exercise and head for a remote, inaccessible island. As they confront storms, illness, injury, and a gang of international jewel thieves, the quest tests their courage and loyalty and strengthens the bonds of friendship. Readers will cheer the runaways on, laugh with them at their foibles, and share Alice’s pleasure in overcoming the obstacles that stand in her way.

Distress Signal by Mary E. Lambert
Lavender’s class is on a field trip in the desert of Chiricahua National Monument, hiking down a ravine, when a flash flood strikes!  As the water hurtles down the ravine, everyone sprints for safety. Lavender runs in the opposite direction as the rest of her class and scrambles up a tree while the torrential river rages by.  When the waters finally recede, Lavender finds herself stranded in the brutal heat of the desert with only her ex-best friend Marisol, mean-girl Rachelle, and a boy named John. They are shaken, disoriented, and have just one pack of supplies and the most basic wilderness knowledge. Can they find their way back to safety? They will have to learn to work together in spite of their differences — if they want to survive.

A World Below by Wesley King
Mr. Baker’s eighth grade class thought they were in for a normal field trip to Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico. But when an earthquake hits, their field trip takes a terrifying turn. The students are plunged into an underground lake…and their teacher goes missing.  They have no choice but to try and make their way back above ground, even though no one can agree on the best course of action. The darkness brings out everyone’s true self. Supplies dwindle and tensions mount. Pretty and popular Silvia does everything she can to hide her panic attacks, even as she tries to step up and be a leader. But the longer she’s underground, the more frequent and debilitating they become. Meanwhile, Eric has always been a social no one, preferring to sit at the back of the class and spend evenings alone. Now, he finds himself separated from his class, totally by himself underground. That is, until he meets an unexpected stranger.  Do the kids in Mr. Baker’s class really know each other at all? Or do they just think they do? It turns out, it’s hard to hide in the dark…

Wild River by Rodman Philbrick
Daniel Redmayne is fast asleep on the first night of a white water rafting trip, when he’s awoken by screams. The dam has failed. The river is surging, and their camp will be under water in a matter of moments.  Daniel and his tripmates must make it out of the ravine–or die. As the shrieking roar of the river rushes closer, the kids scramble to higher ground. They make it; their counselors do not.  Now they’re on their own, with barely any food or supplies, in the middle of the Montana wilderness. Do Daniel and his four classmates have what it takes to stay alive until they can get rescued? Alone in the wild, they forge powerful bonds — but develop dangerous disagreements. If nature doesn’t break them, they might just destroy each other. Do they have what it takes to stay alive?

Storm Runners by Roland Smith
Chase Masters and his father are “storm runners,” racing across the country in pursuit of hurricanes, tornadoes, and floods. Anywhere bad weather strikes, they are not far behind. As Chase tells anyone who will listen, he’s learning much more on the road than he ever would just sitting in a classroom. But with Hurricane Emily bearing down on a nearby Florida county, Chase’s father takes off to chase it alone, leaving him at an old farmhouse, winter home to a traveling circus. When the hurricane changes course and heads straight for Chase’s school, Chase tries to persuade the principal to keep the kids at school. Unfortunately, the principal thinks the kids will be safer at home, and sends everyone off on their school buses. When the storm strikes, just as Chase had predicted, his school bus is swept off the road. The driver is killed, and Chase and two classmates endure alligators and roiling waters before they make it back to the circus camp. There they discover that the company’s animals (including dangerous species, such as lions and leopards) have escaped.  In this trilogy, which continues with The Surge and Eruption, Chase and his classmates will be tested in ways they never could have imagined.

Hills End by Ivan Southall
In a rugged and isolated logging town in Australia, it’s Picnic Day, and seven kids–Harvey Collins, Frances, Butch and Maisie McLeod, Adrian Fiddler, and Paul and Gussie Mace–have convinced their schoolmistress, Miss Godwin, to leave their planned scheduled event to explore some nearby caves for aboriginal drawings Adrian found earlier in the week. They’re in the caves when they hear thunder, and a violent storm suddenly breaks. Amid hailstones and torrents of driving rain, the river floods, and the kids find themselves separated from their teacher—and cut off from all other adult help as well.  Working together–mostly–they manage to make it back to town, only to find it in ruins, with all communications and electricity gone.  There’s even a crazed bull rampaging through the wet darkness.  Until help can come, they must struggle with situations that are bewildering, hilarious, and terrifying. Can the kids hold on until help comes? Is anyone even looking for them?

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And here are a couple too good to leave out! They just don’t feature the “class” part. Instead, one of two kids end up stuck together, in trouble and trying to survive:

Disaster Days by Rebecca Behrens
Hannah Steele loves living on Pelling, a tiny island near Seattle. She’s always felt totally safe there.  So when she’s asked to babysit after school one day, it’s no big deal. Zoe and Oscar are her next-door neighbors, and Hannah just took a babysitting class, which she’s pretty sure makes her an expert. She isn’t even worried that she left her inhaler at home.   Then the shaking begins.  The terrifying earthquake only lasts four minutes, but it changes everything–damaging the house, knocking out the power, and making cell service nonexistent. Even worse, the ferry and the bridge connecting the kids to help–and their parents–are both blocked, which means they’re stranded alone. And Hannah’s in charge as things go from bad to worse.

The Trail by Meika Hashimoto
Toby has to finish the final thing on The List. It’s a list of brave, daring, totally awesome things that he and his best friend, Lucas, planned to do together, and the only item left is to hike the Appalachian Trail. But now Lucas isn’t there to do it with him. Toby’s determined to hike the trail alone and fulfill their pact, which means dealing with the little things — the blisters, the heat, the hunger — and the big things — the bears, the loneliness, and the memories. When a storm comes, Toby finds himself tangled up in someone else’s mess: Two boys desperately need his help. But does Toby have any help to give? A remarkable story of physical survival and true friendship, about a boy who’s determined to forge his own path — and to survive.

Wildfire by Rodman Philbrick
Flames race toward Sam Castine’s summer camp as evacuation buses are loading, but Sam runs back to get his phone. Suddenly, a flash of heat blasts him as pine trees explode. Now a wall of fire separates Sam from his bus, and there’s only one thing to do: Run for his life. Run or die.Lungs burning, Sam’s only goal is to keep moving. Drought has made the forest a tinderbox, and Sam struggles to remember survival tricks he learned from his late father. Then, when he least expects it, he encounters Delphy, an older girl who is also lost. Their unlikely friendship grows as they join forces to find civilization.The pace never slows, and eventually flames surround Sam and Delphy on all sides. A powerful bond is forged that can only grow out of true hardship — as two true friends beat all odds and outwit one of the deadliest fires ever.

Blood Mountain by James Preller
Carter and his older sister Grace thought the hike with their dad and their dog Sitka would be uneventful. If anything, they figured it was Dad’s way of getting them off their screens for a while. When the two set off on a day hike up Blood Mountain, they grow impatient with their dad’s slow pace and set off on their own, but they quickly lose their way in the rugged landscape. The hike on Blood Mountain turns ominous, as the siblings are separated from their father, and soon, battling the elements. They are lost. They are being hunted. When Grace injures herself in a fall, Carter decides to set out alone to find help, leaving them both more vulnerable. Who will reach them first? The young ranger leading the search? Or the mysterious mountain man who has gone off the grid? Will they both survive?

Trapped in the Slickrock Canyon by Gloria Skurzynski
Justin thinks his cousin is a rich spoiled brat, and she thinks he’s a total hick. As they hike along a canyon trail, Gina’s city attitude–and her $180 hiking boots–annoy Justin mightily. So he uses his cowboy drawl to make her mad. Suddenly a menacing sound fills the air–and Gina and Justin are suddenly racing away from danger. Threatened by a flash flood and a man up to no good, their only hope for escape lies in the slickrock canyon. As the cousins struggle to survive, they have to work together to escape both the water and the criminal chasing after them. Will they become a team and escape the canyon?

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Oops. I guess I did TWO 5 Books Featuring…

So…do these books make you want to skip the next class field trip? Or the next family hike or babysitting job? Or maybe just stick a few extra supplies into your backpack? What do you think you would need in these types of situations? Certainly a compass, maybe some bandages, some extra food, water and a pocket knife would come in handy. (Perhaps the best thing would be a satellite phone, to call for help!)

So if you like these books, maybe you would enjoy some of our other survival stories. We have a sticker on the spines of survival stories…it looks like a ship’s life preserver. But if you can’t find those stickers easily, just ask a librarian. We’re always here and ready to help…and we love matching books and readers!

Happy Reading!
::kelly::

Book and Audio Review: The Unicorn Rescue Society

Calling all Unicorn fans! You will NOT meet a unicorn in this series. Not yet anyway. But there is a Jersey Devil, a couple of dragons, and a Sasquatch..and that’s when you’re only halfway through the series! It’s certain that a unicorn has to show up. Eventually.

In the meantime, enjoy this review of the first two books, put together on one CD set.

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The Unicorn Rescue Society, Books 1 – 2
The Creature of the Pines
by Adam Gidwitz, illustrated by Hatem Aly
The Basque Dragon by Adam Gidwitz & Jesse Casey, illustrated by Hatem Aly
Read by January LaVoy
4 CDs; 4 hours, 45 minutes

In The Creature of the Pines, Elliot Eisner is starting his first day at a new school, in a new house, in a new town, two weeks into the semester. Who does that? To make it worse, it’s a Field Trip day. Elliot hasn’t even met his new classmates! But here he is, getting on the bus for a field trip to the New Jersey Pine Barrens. Everyone already has a friend and seat-mate, so he’s going to have to sit with a kid he doesn’t even know. Not the kid who’s farting and laughing…not the kid picking her nose…maybe the girl sitting all alone in the back, singing to herself? It’s not like he has a lot of choice, and she looks nice. Elliot’s a worrier, but he’ll take nice.

Uchenna IS nice. She’s also fearless, and she likes to sing. She has a sense of humor that complements Elliot’s. Could this be the start of a beautiful friendship?

By the time the bus arrives at the Pine Barrens, Elliot and Uchenna are on their way to being fast friends. One of the things they agree on, along with their classmates, is that Professor Fauna, the teacher leading the field trip, is the weirdest and scariest teacher they’ve ever met. Uchenna tells Elliot that there’s a rumor that he has a torture chamber in his office, in the basement of the school! It’s not even unbelievable. When the Professor leads the class into the Barrens, after terrifying them with tales of the many creatures that could kill them if they stray from the path, Elliot and Uchenna are at the back of the line. They have no problem staying in line with the rest of the class though–they don’t want to encounter a Bell Plant or a Snake!

But when they hear faint cries coming from the underbrush, they pause. Something that sounds really young also sounds terrified…and in pain. Uchenna barely hesitates before leaving the path and crashing through the underbrush. Elliot hovers, uncertain. Should he go get the Professor? Tell the teacher? Or should he help Uchenna? But what about getting killed by the flora of the Pine Barrens? Elliot surprises himself by plunging in after his new friend.

The strange little creature they find is frightened; and frightening! It has both sharp teeth and sharp horns, and it tries to bite! Uchenna and Elliot rescue it, but now what will they do? Will it bite them? Can they take it home on the bus? Will the other kids and teachers notice? But after they get it home, Jersey…Bonecruncher?…Jersey…Blood Guzzler? (Elliot and Uchenna can’t agree on a name) escapes. Then Elliot and Uchenna figure that they have to tell someone…and that someone is Professor Fauna.

Suddenly, Elliot has his hands full with a new friend, a terrifying baby Jersey Devil, and a mission. Will the kids be able to save Jersey? It’s the start of the adventure of a lifetime as Elliot and Uchenna join forces with Professor Fauna to rescue their Jersey Devil from a duo of conniving, greedy billionaires, the terrifying Schmoke Brothers.

In The Basque Dragon, Elliot and Uchenna and Jersey have become a team, and they’re working with Professor Fauna, head of the Unicorn Rescue Society. When the Professor hears about a missing herensuge (a specific type of dragon), he enlists Elliot and Uchenna. As the newest members of the Society, he expects them to join him on a rescue mission. Jumping into his plane after school, they fly across the ocean to Basque Country, in northern Spain. They, they join forces with Mitxel Mendizabal, whose dragon charge has been kidnapped. Dragon-knapped?

It’s the evil Schmoke brothers at the root of the problem, again. Can Elliot and Uchenna and Jersey follow the clues and find the missing herensuge? They’re certainly going to try!

I just loved The Unicorn Rescue Society audio book! The narrator was perfect. Her voices for the characters were beyond excellent! Elliot and Uchenna sounded like kids, while also sounding completely different. Professor Fauna has a heavy accent and rolling Rs that suit his over-the-top-character. Even minor characters, like Miss Viola, the kids’ teacher, and other kids in the class, have distinct and identifiable voices. It almost felt like I was watching the characters while I was listening!

The stories are fast-paced and fun. As an adult listening, there were plenty of places that made me laugh. The kids will get the jokes as well, but the unexpectedness of the situations is almost funnier for adult listeners. (As a quick example, when Professor Fauna swears, he mutters “mala palabra”.) The chapters were cliff-hangers that leave the reader (or listener) wanting more.

If you listen to the audio book, make sure you also pick up the physical books as well. The illustrations are excellent, and really add to the stories. The afterwords in each book are really important to read as well. The book locations and cultures are quite thoroughly researched, and the authors’ notes share both the multiple authors’ concerns and their attempts to portray cultures correctly.

The Unicorn Rescue Society series is perfect for third through fifth grades; it might be accessible to good second grade readers as well..especially with the illustrations. I thoroughly enjoyed them; so I think adults would get just as much out of the audio recordings as kids do. It’s a PERFECT adventure for a long family car ride. There are currently five books in the series, with the sixth one coming out in May. I would highly recommend all of them! The other titles are Sasquatch and the Muckleshoot, The Chupacabras of the Rio Grande, The Madre de Aguas of Cuba, and coming soon, The Secret of the Himalayas.

Some read alikes include Pip Bartlett’s Guide to Magical Creatures series by Jackson Pearce, The Extincts by Veronica Cossanteli, The Imaginary Veterinary series by Suzane Selfors, Upside Down Magic series by Sarah Mlynowski, and The Magical Animal Adoption Agency series by Kallie George. These all have audio books as well, so if you’d prefer to listen to them, you could do that too!

* * *

So there you have it…a whole new series about interesting creatures…and maybe, just maybe, there will be a unicorn in there somewhere. Eventually. But in the meantime, learn about some other interesting cryptids…like chupacabras and sasquataches and a variety of dragons.

As always, if you need help finding these or any other books or audios, ask a librarian for help! We love matching books and readers (or listeners). If you would like recommendations, we’re happy to help with that too. 🙂

Happy Reading!
::kelly::

Booklist: Aliens on Earth!

A couple weeks ago, we posted a 5 Books Featuring post about Saving the Planet. This was the longer list that was compiled to get to those five books. Some of them didn’t actually fit into the theme, so they didn’t make the whittling down to five titles. But this is such a good list, it’s worth sharing separately!

So…here we go. A new Booklist!

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Aliens on Earth–a Booklist

Is there Life on a Plastic Planet? by Mildred Ames
Hollis is miserable with her life.  She hates her name, her mother keeps bugging her to eat healthy food, her cousin Addison makes her life miserable.  Then Hollis meets Ms. Eudora, who manages a shop that sells dolls, and serves Hollis yummy éclairs while she listens to her problems. It’s Ms. Eudora who comes up with the plan…substitute one of her dolls for Hollis, and Hollis can spend her days at the shop with Ms. Eudora and her magical éclairs.  But is it all too perfect to be real..?

Whales on Stilts by M.T. Anderson
What sort of madman would unleash an army of stilt-walking, laser-beaming, thoroughly angry whales upon the world? Who cares! All that matters is that his dastardly plan be foiled.Lucky for Lily Gefelty, her two best friends are the intrepid stars of their own middle-grade series novels: Jasper Dash (better know as the Boy Technonaut) and Katie Mulligan (beloved by millions as the heroine of the Horror Hollow series).It’s going to take all their smarts to stop this insane, inane plot from succeeding.

The Invasion by K. A. Applegate
The Earth is being invaded, but no one knows about it. When Jake, Rachel, Tobias, Cassie, and Marco stumble upon a downed alien spaceship and its dying pilot, they’re given an incredible power — they can transform into any animal they touch. With it, they become Animorphs, the unlikely champions in a secret war for the planet. And the enemies they’re fighting could be anyone . . . even the people closest to them.  Read all the Animorphs adventures.  And it’s also a graphic novel!

Attack of the Fluffy Bunnies by Andrea Beaty
When Joules and Kevin Rockman’s parents drop them off at Camp Whatsitooya on their way to an International Spamathon, the twins expect a summer of marshmallows, campfires, and canoe trips. What they do not expect is to defend the earth from an invasion of sugar-addicted, murderous, seven-foot-tall rabbits from another galaxy. Happily, the Rockman twins, veteran watchers of the Late, Late, Late Creepy Show for Insomniacs, are unusually well-prepared for dealing with monstrous beings from outer space. If only their fellow campers were so lucky.

Finn and the Intergalactic Lunchbox by Michael Buckley
Finn Foley has a lunchbox, and when he opens it, weird things come out . . . like a seven-foot-tall robot and a strange, blinking device that glues itself to his chest. The lunchbox also opens wormholes–shortcuts through space–that take Finn to the farthest corners of the galaxy. Sounds awesome, right?  Not so much. Rocketing through the cosmos attracts the attention of the Plague, a race of gigantic bugs. The thing on Finn’s chest belongs to them–it’s the most dangerous weapon in the universe–and they want it back.  To fight the Plague, Finn will need the lunchbox, as well as an unlikely squad of assistants: Lincoln, the bully; Julep, the coolest girl in school; Kate, Finn’s unicorn-obsessed little sister; and Highbeam, a robot spy from another galaxy. If they can learn to work together, they just might have a chance, but the bugs are coming, and they’ll stop at nothing to get their weapon–even if it means destroying the world.

What We Found in the Sofa and How It Saved the World by Henry Clark
When River, Freak, and Fiona discover a mysterious sofa sitting at their bus stop, their search for loose change produces a rare zucchini-colored crayon. Little do they know this peculiar treasure is about to launch them into the middle of a plot to conquer the world!  The kids’ only hope is to trap the plot’s mastermind when he comes to steal the crayon. But how can three kids from the middle of nowhere stop an evil billionaire? With the help of an eccentric neighbor, an artificially intelligent domino, a DNA-analyzing tray, two hot air balloons, and a cat named Mucus, they just might be able to save the planet.

Aliens Ate My Homework by Bruce Coville
“I cannot tell a lie,” says Rod Allbright. And it’s the truth. Ask him a question and he’s bound to give you an honest answer. Which is why, when his teacher asks what happened to last night’s math assignment, Rod has to give the only answer he can: “Aliens ate my homework, Miss Maloney!”  Of course, no one believes Rod this time, so they don’t bother to ask him why the aliens are here. It’s just as well, since he is sworn to silence about their secret mission and the fact that he has been drafted to help them!  It is definitely the weirdest alien invasion ever!  Try the other titles in this humorous series.

Hungry by Alethea Eason
Deborah is starting to notice things about her best friend, Willy–like how cute he looks in his Halloween costume and the adorable way his red hair curls just above his collar. He’s the coolest boy in sixth grade, and the closest friend she’s got . . . that is, until her alien parents tell her she has to eat him for dinner. After all, she’s an alien, too–even if she and her family do live in disguise.  Should she keep Willy alive and survive on forbidden hamburgers and chocolate . . . or point her tentacles at her best friend and gain approval from alien kind?

The Infinite Lives of Maisie Day by Christopher Edge
It’s the morning of Maisie’s tenth birthday, and she can’t wait to open her presents. Maisie is not a typical kid. What she wants most for her birthday are the things she needs to build her own nuclear reactor. But she wakes to an empty house, and outside the front door is nothing but an unsettling, all-consuming blackness–a shifted reality. Even for super-smart Maisie, these puzzling circumstances seem out of her control . . . or are they?

The Jamie Drake Equation by Christopher Edge
How amazing would it be to have a dad who’s an astronaut? To see him go on rocket launches, live in zero gravity, and fly through space like a superhero? Jamie Drake knows. His dad is orbiting Earth in the International Space Station. Jamie thinks it’s cool, and he’s proud of his dad, but he also really misses him. Hanging out at the local observatory one day, Jamie is surprised when he picks up a strange signal on his phone. Could it be aliens? Are they closer to our planet than anyone realizes? With his dad in space, Jamie feels he has no choice but to investigate on his own. But when something goes wrong with his dad’s mission, Jamie is reminded that space is a dangerous place. He decides it’s time to prove that he’s a hero too.

Lunchbox and the Aliens by Bryan W. Fields
Lunchbox felt odd. He wondered how he had known how to open the place where all the yummy stuff was kept. He wondered why he seemed to know so much about these strange animals he was with. He wondered how he knew he was wondering…   Lunchbox is your average basset hound: round, floppy, and not too bright . . . until he’s abducted by aliens. Then he suddenly becomes a lean, mean, garbage-machine-making, uh, machine. Frazz and Grunfloz, the hapless aliens who abducted Lunchbox, have set him the task of converting Earth’s trash into froonga, a food adored by aliens and dogs alike. Will Lunchbox and his boy, Nate, solve the world’s garbage crisis and form the first interplanetary alliance? Or will the fate of the whole solar system come to rest on whether Lunchbox can ever learn to catch a Frisbee?

The Secret of Zoone by Lee Edward Födi
When a bright blue winged tiger appears on his aunt’s sofa, Ozzie can tell he’s in for an adventure. He’s thrilled to follow Tug–a skyger–through a secret door in the basement and into Zoone, the bustling Grand Central Station of the universe, where a thousand doors act as portals to strange and wonderful worlds.  But some doors also hide dangers–and when the portal back to Earth explodes behind him, Ozzie gets more adventure than he bargained for. In a station full of wizards, creepy-crawlies, and the occasional cursed princess, Ozzie has to find a way to repair his door… and possibly save the multiverse in the process.

Boom! by Mark Haddon
From the moment that Jim and his best friend, Charlie, bug the staff room and overhear two of their teachers speaking to each other in a secret language, they know there’s an adventure on its way.  But what does “spudvetch” actually mean, and why do Mr. Kidd’s eyes flicker with fluorescent blue light when Charlie says it to him? Perhaps Kidd and Pearce are bank robbers talking in code. Perhaps they’re spies. Perhaps they are aliens. Whatever it is, Jimbo and Charlie are determined to find out.  There really is an adventure on its way. A nuclear-powered, one-hundred-ton adventure with reclining seats and a buffet car. And as it gathers speed and begins to spin out of control, it can only end one way . . . with a BOOM!

George’s Secret Key to the Universe by Lucy & Stephen Hawking
George is heartbroken when he learns that his friend Annie and her father are moving to the US. Eric has a new job working for the space program, looking for signs of life in the Universe. Eric leaves George with a gift–a book called The User’s Guide to the Universe. But Annie and Eric haven’t been gone for very long when Annie believes that she is being contacted by aliens, who have a terrible warning for her. George joins her in the US to help her with her quest–and before he knows it, he, Annie, Cosmos, and Annie’s annoying cousin Emmett have been swept up in a cosmic treasure hunt, spanning the whole galaxy and beyond.  Read all of George’s other adventures as well!

Sal & Gabi Break the Universe by Carlos Hernandez
When Sal Vidon meets Gabi Real for the first time, it isn’t under the best of circumstances. Sal is in the principal’s office for the third time in three days, and it’s still the first week of school. Gabi, student council president and editor of the school paper, is there to support her friend Yasmany, who just picked a fight with Sal. She is determined to prove that somehow, Sal planted a raw chicken in Yasmany’s locker, even though nobody saw him do it and the bloody poultry has since mysteriously disappeared.  Sal prides himself on being an excellent magician, but for this sleight of hand, he relied on a talent no one would guess . . . except maybe Gabi, whose sharp eyes never miss a trick. When Gabi learns that he’s capable of conjuring things much bigger than a chicken–including his dead mother–and she takes it all in stride, Sal knows that she is someone he can work with. There’s only one slight problem: their manipulation of time and space could put the entire universe at risk. Read the sequel too!

Thresholds by Nina Kiriki Hoffman
Maya’s family has just moved from Idaho to Spores Ferry, Oregon. She’s nervous about starting middle school and making new friends, but soon that’s the last thing on her mind. First, a fairy flies into her room. Then it turns out that the kids in the apartment building next door do magic, and their basement is full of portals to other worlds. She’s bursting with new experiences and delight . . . and secrets, because she can’t breathe a word to her family, not even when she winds up taking care of an alien!  Make sure to read the rest of this exciting trilogy.

Dognap by Patrick Jennings
When dogs go missing, one boy will find out why.  And the answer is out of this world.
Nothing gets past Logan. When he observes that the neighborhood’s dogs are mysteriously vanishing, he suspects nothing less than a full-scale alien dognapping invasion. The adults don’t believe him, of course, so he enlists his friends to investigate and soon they make a shocking discovery.  Now man’s best friend needs help. Fast. Suddenly, Logan and his team are on a mission unlike anything known to man.

Escape to Witch Mountain by Alexander Key
Tony and Tia have always been together, even if they don’t know exactly where they came from. When their foster parents die, the brother and sister are sent to an ophanage, where the other kids have a hard time accepting their differences. When an evil man sees Tia do something impossible, he pretends to be their uncle and removes them from the orphanage, When Tony and Tia realize that he doesn’t really intend to help them, they decide it’s time to run away and try to find other people like themselves. Maybe, with their few memories and the clues in Tia’s double-star case, they can find someone who knows something of their mysterious past.

A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle
It was a dark and stormy night; Meg Murry, her small brother Charles Wallace, and her mother had come down to the kitchen for a midnight snack when they were upset by the arrival of a most disturbing stranger. “Wild nights are my glory,” the unearthly stranger told them. “I just got caught in a downdraft and blown off course. Let me sit down for a moment, and then I’ll be on my way. Speaking of ways, by the way, there is such a thing as a tesseract.”  And those words start Meg and her brother Charles Wallace and new friend Calvin O’Keefe on the adventure of a lifetime in search of Meg’s father, a scientist who disappeared while engaged in secret work for the government on the tesseract problem. The first book in the classic series of time and space adventures of the Murray family.

EngiNerds by Jarrett Lerner
Ken is an EngiNerd: one of a super-smart group of friends–all nerds–who have been close since kindergarten.  They may be brainiacs, but they’re just like everyone else: they fight with one another, watch too much TV, eat Chinese food, and hate walking their dogs. Well, maybe not just like everyone because Ken’s best friend Dan has been building robots. He then secretly sent one to each of the EngiNerds, never letting them know he’s the mastermind.  At first Ken is awed and delighted: what kid hasn’t dreamed of having a robot all their own? Someone who can be their friend, clean their room, walk the dog, answer homework questions…how amazing is that?  But be careful what you wish for: Dan’s robot, Greeeg, may look innocent, but his ravenous consumption of food–comestibles–turns him into a butt-blasting bot. And once the other robots ‘come alive’ it’s up to the motley crew of EngiNerds to not only save the day, but save the planet!  Read the other books in the series.

Emperor of the Universe by David Lubar
When seventh grader Nicholas V. Landrew, his beloved pet gerbil Henrietta, and a package of ground beef are beamed aboard an alien space ship, they soon find themselves on the run in a madcap chase across the universe. All Nicholas wants to do is get back home before his parents find out and ground him forever, but with the Universal Police hot on his trail, that won’t be easy. Before it’s all over, Henrietta will find herself safely ensconced back in her cage, Nicholas will be crowned Emperor of the Universe, and something even more surprising will happen to the package of ground beef.

Pi in the Sky by Wendy Mass
Joss is the seventh son of the Supreme Overlord of the Universe. His older brothers help his dad rule the cosmos, but all Joss gets to do is deliver pies. That’s right: pies. Of course, these pies actually hold the secrets of the universe between their buttery crusts, but they’re still pies.  Joss is happy to let his older brothers shine. He has plenty to keep his hands full: attempting to improve his bowling score; listening to his best friend, Kal, try (and fail) to play the drums; and exploring his ever-changing home, The Realms. But when Earth suddenly disappears, Joss is tasked with the seemingly impossible job of bringing it back. With the help of Annika, an outspoken girl from Earth, he embarks on the adventure of a lifetime…and learns that the universe is an even stranger place than he’d imagined.

You Can’t Have My Planet, But Take My Brother, Please by James Mihaley
Giles is the last person anyone would expect to save the planet. he’s not as charming as his little sister, and not as brainy as his goody-goody older brother. But when Giles witnesses an alien realtor showing Earth to possible new tenants, he knows he’d better do something. With the help of an alien “attorney” and the maddest scientist in middle-grade fiction, Giles just might save humans from eviction from Earth. Let’s hope so. The alternatives are…not so hospitable.

Herbert’s Wormhole by Peter Nelson
Greetings. This story concerns a scientific anomaly that opens a portal, allowing us to traverse the space-time continuum and triggering an adventure that those of limited intelligence might simply describe as “awesome.”
Hey! This is a book about how we get sucked into this wormhole thingy and it drops us in the future where there’s all this really cool futuristic stuff, but also these super-freaky aliens and we mess everything up and have to save the world. How awesome is that?
When Alex, a video game fanatic, is forced on a “playdate” with his neighbor Herbert, an inventor, the two travel to the twenty-second century and face off against aliens, who are not as beneficent as most people think.  Read the other books in the series as well.

The New Kid by A.I. Newton
Zeke the alien is on his way to his first day of school, feeling down because he has to start over again on a new planet, as his scientist parents constantly move to wherever their research takes them. When he gets to school, no one seems to notice anything strange or different about him except Harris, a kid obsessed with science fiction and aliens. Harris sees Zeke doing extraordinary things but can’t convince anyone, least of all his best friend, Roxy, that Zeke might be an alien. Roxy just thinks Harris is jealous that she’s becoming friends with Zeke. But when Roxy invites Zeke over to Harris’s house, will Harris find a way to prove that he’s right?  Read all of The Alien Next Door books!

How to Sell Your Family to the Aliens by Paul Noth
Happy Conklin Jr. is the only kid who has to shave three times a day. Hap’s dad is a brilliant inventor of screwball products, and being a Conklin kid means sometimes being experimented on. So Hap has his beard, and his five sisters each have their own unique–and often problematic–qualities too. And although Hap’s dad has made a fortune with his wacky inventions sold via nonstop TV infomercials, all of that money has gone to Hap’s tyrannical Grandma. While she lives in an enormous mansion, the rest of the family lives in two rooms in the basement.  All Hap has ever wanted is to have a normal life, so when he sees a chance to get rid of Grandma, he takes it! He only means to swap out Grandma, but when he–oops!–sells his whole family to the aliens, he wants nothing more than to get them back. He just has to figure out . . . how?

Flood City by Daniel José Older
Welcome to Flood City, the last inhabitable place left above the waters that cover Earth. It’s also the last battleground between the Chemical Barons, who once ruled the planet and now circle overhead in spaceships, desperate to return, and the Star Guard, who have controlled the city for decades.  Born and raised in Flood City, Max doesn’t care about being part of either group. All he wants is to play his music with the city band, keep his sister from joining the Star Guard, and be noticed by his crush, the awesome drummer Djinna.  Meanwhile, Ato, a young Chemical Baron, has joined his crew for what was supposed to be a routine surveillance mission, only things go from bad to worse between unexplained iguanagull attacks and the discovery of deadly schemes. Ato’s just trying to stay safe, keep his twin brother alive, and not hurt anyone. So when his commander prepares to wipe out Flood City completely, Ato must decide how far he’ll go.  As Max’s and Ato’s paths collide, it changes everything. Because they might be able to stop a coming war. But can two enemies work together to save Earth?

Bloom by Kenneth Oppel
The invasion begins–but not as you’d expect. It begins with rain. Rain that carries seeds. Seeds that sprout–overnight, everywhere. These new plants take over crop fields, twine up houses, and burrow below streets. They bloom–and release toxic pollens. They bloom–and form Venus flytrap-like pods that swallow animals and people. They bloom–everywhere, unstoppable.  Or are they? Three kids on a remote island seem immune to the toxic plants. Anaya, Petra, Seth. They each have strange allergies–and yet not to these plants. What’s their secret? Can they somehow be the key to beating back this invasion? They’d better figure it out fast, because it’s starting to rain again….   An exciting trilogy.

Close Encounters of the Nerd Kind by Jeff Miller
In this exciting sequel to The Nerdy Dozen, Neil Andertol and his gang of dorky gamers are once again called on to fly a top-secret mission–one that is literally out of this world. This time, rescuing mankind means heading into outer space. A top-secret spacecraft has been stolen, and NASA needs the best pilots in the universe to get it back–the Nerdy Dozen. It’s a race against time to stop an earth-shattering disaster. Can the twelve geeks save the day again–or will it be game over?  The Middle book of an exciting trilogy!

The True Meaning of Smekday by Adam Rex
When her mother is abducted by aliens on Christmas Eve (or “Smekday” Eve since the Boov invasion), Tip hops in the family car with her cat and heads out to rescue her.  So while the rest of the American population gets shipped via rocketpod to Florida–the proposed site of the new United State of America–Tip heads that way on her own to find her mom.  On the way, she meets a solitary Boov mechanic named J. Lo.  He’s unarmed, and he can fix her battered car, so she agrees to give him a ride, which leads to two alarming discoveries.  One is that J.Lo turns out to be not so bad.  The other is that J.Lo is number one on the Boov’s most wanted list for making the hugest mistake in the history of Smekland (or Earth, depending on your point of view). Now Tip and her many-legged friend are the only ones who can save the planet from a really big catastrophe!  Don’t forget to read the sequel: Smek for President.

The Girl with the Silver Eyes by Willo Davis Roberts
Katie Welker is used to being alone. She would rather read a book than deal with other people. Other people don’t have silver eyes. Other people can’t make things happen just by thinking about them!  But these special powers make Katie unusual, and it’s hard to make friends when you’re unusual. Katie knows that she’s different but she’s never done anything to hurt anyone so why is everyone afraid of her? Maybe there are other kids out there who have the same silver eyes…and the same talents…and maybe they’ll be willing to help her.

A Problematic Paradox by Eliot Sappingfield
Nikola Kross has given up on living in harmony with classmates and exasperated teachers- she prefers dabbling in experimental chemistry to fitting in. But when her life is axially inverted by a gang of extraterrestrials who kidnap her dad and attempt to recruit her into their service, she discovers he’s been keeping a world of secrets from her–including the school for geniuses where she’s sent for refuge, a place where classes like Practical Quantum Mechanics are the norm and where students use wormholes to commute to class. For Nikola, the hard part isn’t school, it’s making friends, especially when the student body isn’t (entirely) human. But the most puzzling paradox of all is Nikola herself, who has certain abilities that no one understands-abilities that put her whole school in greater danger than she could have imagined.

What Came From the Stars by Gary D. Schmidt
The Valorim are about to fall to a dark lord when they send a necklace containing their planet across the cosmos, hurtling past a trillion stars . . . all the way into the lunchbox of Tommy Pepper, sixth grader, of Plymouth, Mass.  Mourning his late mother, Tommy doesn’t notice much about the chain he found, but soon he is drawing the twin suns and humming the music of ahanorah.  As Tommy absorbs the art and language of the Valorim, their enemies target him. When a creature begins ransacking Plymouth in search of the chain, Tommy learns he must protect his family from villains far worse than he’s ever imagined.

Spaceheadz! by Jon Sciezka
Michael K. just started fifth grade at a new school. As if that wasn’t hard enough, the kids he seems to have made friends with apparently aren’t kids at all. They are aliens. Real aliens who have invaded our planet in the form of school children and a hamster. They have a mission to complete: to convince 3,140,001 kids to BE SPHDZ. But with a hamster as their leader, “kids” who talk like walking advertisements, and Michael K as their first convert, will the SPHDZ be able to keep their cover and pull off their assignment?  With Michael K as their first convert, will the SPHDZ be able to keep their cover and pull off their assignment?  Read all the other SPHDZ books!

Interstellar Pig by William Sleator
When three unusually attractive young adults rent the summer cottage next door, Barney’s boring vacation at the beach seemingly takes a turn for the better. However, after the neighbors unwittingly reveal their extraterrestrial identities, the board game they have taught him becomes a real-life battle, and Barney must outsmart the aliens to save Earth from destruction. The fantastical tale contains some of Sleator’s most inventive characters.  (In the Teen collection)

Aliens on Vacation by Clete Barrett Smith
Scrub isn’t happy about having to spend the summer with his hippie grandmother in “Middle of Nowhere,” Washington. When he arrives at her Intergalactic Bed & Breakfast, he’s not surprised by its 1960s-meets-Star Wars decor; but he is surprised by the weird looking guests. It turns out that each room in the inn is a portal and his grandma is the gatekeeper, allowing aliens to vacation on Earth. She desperately needs Scrub’s help with disguising the tourists as humans. As if that weren’t difficult enough, the town sheriff is already suspicious of Granny. One wrong move and Scrub could blow Grandma’s cover, forcing the B&B to shut down forever. And when it comes to aliens, every move seems wrong . . .  Full of cosmic chaos and mind-bending mayhem, Scrub’s summer adventure will leave readers wanting to make a return trip.

The Lost Tribes and The Lost Tribes: Safe Harbor by C. Taylor-Butler
Ben and April Webster never knew their parents were scientists on a secret mission until they disappeared. Now Ben, April and their friends have discovered that they are not from Earth, but have been assigned to save the planet– while trying to find their parents. These five friends are in a race against time in this action-adventure story involving ancient tribal artifacts that hold the fate of the universe in the balance.

The Doom Machine : a novel  by Mark Teague
When a spaceship lands in Vern Hollow, Jack’s hometown, he and his no-account inventor-uncle Bud are busy trying to fix a car driven by Dr. Shumway and her daughter, Isadora. Although Uncle Bud secretly knows the aliens are after one of his inventions, everyone is surprised when the space aliens capture seven of Vern Hollow’s residents and take them into outer space on a wild adventure. . . .

Voyagers: Project Alpha by various authors
The entire future of our planet will soon be in the hands of four kids. Sure, they’ll be the best in the world . . . but can they save the world? Earth is about to go dark. Without a new power source, life as we know it will be toast. A global competition is under way to determine who will join the secret mission that might just save us all. The Voyagers will venture to the far reaches of space, farther than anyone’s ever gone before, and they must be prepared to face anything. But first the Voyagers team needs to be chosen. Project Alpha is a competition of physical challenges, mental puzzles, and political alliances. The battle is fierce, and only four will make the cut. . . . A series with each book by a different, favorite author.

Earthborn by Sylvia Waugh
Nesta Gwynn has always known that her parents are different. She thinks it’s because they’re from Boston instead of the little town in England, where Nesta was born and where she’s always lived. But then Nesta discovers that her parents aren’t really from Boston. In fact, they’re not from Earth at all. They’re aliens from a planet named Ormingat and, even though she was born on Earth, Nesta is an alien too. To make matters worse, her parents’s mission on Earth has come to an abrupt end because of a boy named Thomas Derwent. They will have one chance to return to Ormingat and it’s only seven days away. Nesta quickly devises a plan so that she’ll miss the deadline and not have to leave Earth. But if she stays behind, will her parents choose to stay with her or will they go back to Ormingat without her?

You’ll Like it Here (Everybody Does) by Ruth White
While Meggie and David Blue are from another planet, they’re a lot like Earth kids, with similar hopes and dreams, and can’t wait to grow up. BUT they also have GROSSLY UNIQUE qualities, such as blue streaks in their hair that pop up randomly and language skills that sound like nothing on this planet. The story takes these alien kids, along with their mother and grandfather, by accident, to a far planet in which the society is not only oppressive but hostile to individual freedom. People are kept submissive through drugs and brainwashing. The Blues, who have spent time in free societies recognize the upside-down-ness of this world. They’re almost helpless to do anything, but do what they can, plan their escape, and vow to help others.

Alien Superstar by Henry Winkler and Lin Oliver
No one is shocked by the six-eyed alien strolling around the Universal back lot. The tourists just think he’s part of the show. It doesn’t take long for Buddy to land a role on a popular TV show, playing (of course) an alien. He becomes an overnight heartthrob and is suddenly faced with legions of adoring fans, rides in glamorous limos, and appearances at “all-the-shrimp-you-can-eat” red carpet parties. But can Buddy maintain his secret identity while in the spotlight?  In Lights! Camera! Danger!  Buddy Burger is ready for another wacky adventure! But as he gets more famous, will he be able to hide from his fans that he’s really an alien with suction cups for feet, a sensory enhancer that goes wild for gummy dragons, and six eyes? And will he be able to hide from the oppressive police force of his home planet forever? This funny series is by a popular team of authors.

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And there you have it…a whole booklist of aliens on Earth! You can probably tell from the summaries if they’re funny, scary or somewhere in between. But if you like science fiction with a side of aliens…there’s sure to be something on this list that will appeal to the reader in you!

As always, if you need help finding any of the books on this list–or any others!–simply ask one of our librarians for assistance. We’re always happy to help match books and readers!

Happy Reading!
::kelly::

Book & Audio Review: 13 Treasures

It’s that time again…time for a new Audio Book! And this one is magical…

Have you ever wished to have magical powers? To be able to see magical things? Maybe even to do magic yourself? In some books it’s fun. In other books it’s scary. Sometimes, it’s a little of both.

Most of the time, it’s not all it’s cracked up to be. Check out 13 Treasures and find out why!

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13 Treasures
by Michelle Harrison, Read by Nicola Barber
7 CDs; 8 Hours

Tanya has always been able to see faeries and magical beings; she doesn’t remember a time when she couldn’t. When she was little, everyone thought it was cute…a little girl chattering away to her imaginary friends. But as she got older, people around her were less accepting, and she became “that weird girl who talks to herself.” Even her parents don’t believe her when she tries to explain.

So Tanya learns to ignore the beings only she can see. But that just makes them angry. Instead of just talking to her, they started tormenting her; causing accidents to happen around her and to her. Sometimes she can center herself it by writing about what is happening in her diary, but the little people don’t like that. If they find out, it makes it worse.

And then it gets just about as bad as it can get. Tanya’s mother gives up on her daughter after her bedroom is destroyed–again–and brings her to stay with her grandmother. Tanya doesn’t want to go, the house is miles from everything, crumbling and old. It even has a name: Elvesden Manor. Her grandmother, Florence, is cold and unapproachable, although she mostly ignores Tanya. Warwick, the man who takes care of everything at the manor, including Florence, is a silent man, not given to talking much. His son, Fabian is more of a nuisance. Tanya and Fabian have never gotten along in the past, and Tanya doesn’t expect that to have changed. To have to spend weeks with this three people she doesn’t even like seems like a never-ending sentence of dreadfulness.

And then, to make matters worse, it turns out that the manor is also full of unwelcoming creatures, from the stone gargoyles on the gate to the slinking cat who catches and chews on fae folk, to the goblins in the garden. Tanya is grateful to have been able to bring her dog Oberon with her, but even he can’t warn her about everything.

On the first day, Tanya discovers an unlocked door in the house–a door that has never been unlocked before. Going in, she finds a library of books, including books about Faerie lore and the Unseen world. Out of one of the books, several newspaper clippings fall out about a girl gone missing fifty years earlier. Her grandmother finds her in the library and scolds her, but also seems afraid. She tells Tanya to keep the silver charm bracelet she found in the library…something she would have never done in the past. Tanya is intrigued by both the mystery of the missing girl, who had been her grandmother’s friend, and the thirteen charms on her new bracelet.

Strange things start to happen when Tanya goes to town. First Mad Morag, a woman Fabian calls “crazy” gives her a strange brass compass. Then a man tries to buy it from her…and when she won’t sell, he tries to steal it! She doesn’t understand anything happening around her.

When Oberon chases a goblin into the woods, Tanya has to follow him. Fabian comes with her. Soon they find themselves lost in the woods, with only the compass to guide them. A compass that points to…H? Fabian turns out not to be so bad, and they agree to cooperate to find Oberon and get out of the woods. But their discoveries there lead them to a tighter friendship as they work together to solve the mysteries surrounding Tanya. Is her life actually at risk? Will they figure out what is going on before the fae folk get to her?

The audio of 13 Treasures is wonderful. I loved the narrator’s voice and her accent. I don’t really know what it is, but it’s either British or Irish or something in between. The descriptions of the manor, the woods and the town make you feel like you are in the story. Actually, all the descriptive passages are quite nice. I do like her voices for all the characters, including the creatures. Maybe especially the creatures! One of my favorite passages is when Tanya encounters goblins, and they talk in rhyme. Tanya has to answer in rhyme, for them to hear and understand her. I enjoyed the way it unfolded as you listen; feeling like you’re figuring out what to do along with Tanya.

13 Treasures is a fun and spooky story; the first in a trilogy that includes 13 Curses and 13 Secrets. There’s also a prequel called One Wish. I have always enjoyed stories featuring the world of Faerie, and this one is delightfully menacing, with characters you grow to admire and want to succeed. It’s an adventure story, a story of an unlikely friendship, and a mystery, all rolled into one.

This book is appropriate for fourth through seventh grade readers who enjoy a good mystery or fantasy. The audio is enjoyable for listeners of all ages, and anyone going to stay in a creepy woods in England (Ireland?) should definitely read or listen to this one! Some read alikes are The Spiderwick Chronicles by Tony DiTerlizzi, The Thickety by J. A. White, Under the Green Hill by Laura Sullivan, The Jumbies by Tracy Baptiste, The Green Children of Woolpit by J. Anderson Coats, and Come Fall by A. C. E. Bauer.


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So there you go…another audio book for your next trip–or maybe just to listen to around town. If you like chills and thrills, with a bit of mystery and some heartwarming family bonding (sort of) this one is for you!

As always, if you need help finding this or any other book in the library, just ask one of our librarians for help. We love matching books and readers!

Happy Reading!
::kelly::

Five Books Featuring…Kids Save the Planet!

Aliens from another world? Do they want to befriend us, or do they want to eat us?

What would you do if you were put on the spot and had to save the planet from aliens? Could you do it? The kids in these books are sure going to give it a try–and they’ll use anything they can. From a mysterious lunchbox to something found stuck in a sofa or the help of an alien with a weird name…these kids are on it!

Our Five Books feature is a booklist of five books (occasionally with a few extras) on a specific topic, with a short synopsis so you can decide if it sounds like something you would like. Five Books–One Old, One New, One Popular with Kids, One Well-Reviewed, and One Favorite. (But you’ll have to guess which is which)!

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Finn and the Intergalactic Lunchbox by Michael Buckley
Finn Foley has a lunchbox, and when he opens it, weird things come out . . . like a seven-foot-tall robot and a strange, blinking device that glues itself to his chest. The lunchbox also opens wormholes–shortcuts through space–that take Finn to the farthest corners of the galaxy. Sounds awesome, right?  Not so much. Rocketing through the cosmos attracts the attention of the Plague, a race of gigantic bugs. The thing on Finn’s chest belongs to them–it’s the most dangerous weapon in the universe–and they want it back.  To fight the Plague, Finn will need the lunchbox, as well as an unlikely squad of assistants: Lincoln, the bully; Julep, the coolest girl in school; Kate, Finn’s unicorn-obsessed little sister; and Highbeam, a robot spy from another galaxy. If they can learn to work together, they just might have a chance, but the bugs are coming, and they’ll stop at nothing to get their weapon–even if it means destroying the world.

What We Found in the Sofa and How It Saved the World by Henry Clark
When River, Freak, and Fiona discover a mysterious sofa sitting at their bus stop, their search for loose change produces a rare zucchini-colored crayon. Little do they know this peculiar treasure is about to launch them into the middle of a plot to conquer the world!  The kids’ only hope is to trap the plot’s mastermind when he comes to steal the crayon. But how can three kids from the middle of nowhere stop an evil billionaire? With the help of an eccentric neighbor, an artificially intelligent domino, a DNA-analyzing tray, two hot air balloons, and a cat named Mucus, they just might be able to save the planet. . .
Try other books by this very funny author.

Boom! by Mark Haddon
From the moment that Jim and his best friend, Charlie, bug the staff room and overhear two of their teachers speaking to each other in a secret language, they know there’s an adventure on its way.  But what does “spudvetch” actually mean, and why do Mr. Kidd’s eyes flicker with fluorescent blue light when Charlie says it to him? Perhaps Kidd and Pearce are bank robbers talking in code. Perhaps they’re spies. Perhaps they are aliens. Whatever it is, Jimbo and Charlie are determined to find out.  There really is an adventure on its way. A nuclear-powered, one-hundred-ton adventure with reclining seats and a buffet car. And as it gathers speed and begins to spin out of control, it can only end one way . . . with a BOOM!

Sal & Gabi Break the Universe by Carlos Hernandez
When Sal Vidon meets Gabi Real for the first time, it isn’t under the best of circumstances. Sal is in the principal’s office for the third time in three days, and it’s still the first week of school. Gabi, student council president and editor of the school paper, is there to support her friend Yasmany, who just picked a fight with Sal. She is determined to prove that somehow, Sal planted a raw chicken in Yasmany’s locker, even though nobody saw him do it and the bloody poultry has since mysteriously disappeared.  Sal prides himself on being an excellent magician, but for this sleight of hand, he relied on a talent no one would guess . . . except maybe Gabi, whose sharp eyes never miss a trick. When Gabi learns that he’s capable of conjuring things much bigger than a chicken–including his dead mother–and she takes it all in stride, Sal knows that she is someone he can work with. There’s only one slight problem: their manipulation of time and space could put the entire universe at risk. Read the sequel too!

A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle
It was a dark and stormy night; Meg Murry, her small brother Charles Wallace, and her mother had come down to the kitchen for a midnight snack when they were upset by the arrival of a most disturbing stranger. “Wild nights are my glory,” the unearthly stranger told them. “I just got caught in a downdraft and blown off course. Let me sit down for a moment, and then I’ll be on my way. Speaking of ways, by the way, there is such a thing as a tesseract.”  And those words start Meg and her brother Charles Wallace and new friend Calvin O’Keefe on the adventure of a lifetime in search of Meg’s father, a scientist who disappeared while engaged in secret work for the government on the tesseract problem. The classic series of time and space adventures for the Murray family.

The True Meaning of Smekday by Adam Rex
When her mother is abducted by aliens on Christmas Eve (or “Smekday” Eve since the Boov invasion), Tip hops in the family car with her cat and heads out to rescue her.  So while the rest of the American population gets shipped via rocketpod to Florida–the proposed site of the new United State of America–Tip heads that way on her own to find her mom.  On the way, she meets a solitary Boov mechanic named J. Lo.  He’s unarmed, and he can fix her battered car, so she agrees to give him a ride, which leads to two alarming discoveries.  One is that J.Lo turns out to be not so bad.  The other is that J.Lo is number one on the Boov’s most wanted list for making the hugest mistake in the history of Smekland (or Earth, depending on your point of view). Now Tip and her many-legged friend are the only ones who can save the planet from a really big catastrophe!  Don’t forget to read the sequel, and if you can, listen to the audiobook…which is the best recording of any children’s book ever! ;D

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There you have it! Five…er, six…books on how to save the planet from aliens! But do you know…? This was so much fun, I ended up making an entire bookLIST of kids saving the planet from aliens! Look for that later this month.

Until then, if you notice any suspicious tentacles in your neighborhood, or friends who look like they might have an extra eye, or a teacher who always covers his head…think twice about what they might be up to!

As always, if you need help finding these or any other books in the library, just ask one of our librarians for help. We always love to match kids with their next favorite book. 😀

Happy Reading!
::kelly::

5 Books Featuring…Military Dogs and their People

Do you have a dog? Do you think they’re well trained? If they’re not well trained…welcome to my world! 🙂 If they are well trained, do you think they could hold down a job? A real job, like bomb-sniffing, or jumping out of planes, or finding people in the rubble of broken buildings? The dogs in these books do all that, and more. They also provide comfort and distraction for their special humans.

These five (well, seven) books feature military dogs saving themselves and rescuing their people from a variety of situations.

Our Five Books feature is a booklist of five books (occasionally with a few extras) on a specific topic, with a short synopsis so you can decide if it sounds like something you would like. Five Books–One Old, One New, One Popular with Kids, One Well-Reviewed, and One Favorite. (But you’ll have to guess which is which)! And if there are more than five…well, sometimes it’s hard to decide which one to leave out…

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Five books Featuring…Military Dogs and Their People

Saving Zasha by Randy Barrow
World War II has just ended when Mikhail finds a dying man and his German shepherd, Zasha, in the woods. It’s dangerous-some say traitorous-to own a German dog after Germany attacked Russia, so Mikhail must keep Zasha a secret to keep her alive.  But Mikhail’s rival, Katia, is determined to find the dog she is sure he’s hiding. At the same time, a soldier named Dimitri is breeding a new Russian dog at a nearby farm. So many dogs were lost to starvation and in combat that the country is in dire need of every kind of dog. Dimitri, too, has suspicions of Zasha’s existence, and would like nothing more than to add her to his breeding program.  Mikhail’s inspiring journey to save his best friend, the last German shepherd in Russia, forces him to face some of life’s hardest lessons about war, hate, forgiveness, hope, love, and man’s best friend.  Also read the sequel: Finding Zasha.

Rip to the Rescue by Miriam Halahmy
It’s 1940 and Nazi bombs are raining down on London.  Jack navigates the smoky, ash-covered streets of London amid air raid sirens and falling bombs, dodging shrapnel and listening for cries for help, as a bike messenger for fire crews. When Jack finds a dog, miraculously still alive after the latest Nazi bombing of London, he realizes there’s something extra special about the shaggy pup–he can smell people who are trapped under debris.  With his new canine companion–named Rip because of the dog’s torn ear-maybe Jack can do more than just relay messages back-and-forth.  Maybe he can actually save lives. And if Jack’s friend Paula is right about the impending Nazi invasion, he and Rip will need to do all they can to help Jewish families like hers. 
There’s just one problem: Jack has to convince his ill-tempered father to let him keep Rip.

Cracker by Cynthia Kadohta
Cracker is one of the U.S. Army’s most valuable weapons;  a German shepherd trained to sniff out bombs, traps, and the enemy. The fate of entire platoons rests on her keen sense of smell. She’s a Big Deal, and she likes it that way. Sometimes Cracker remembers when she was younger, and her previous owner would feed her hot dogs and let her sleep in his bed. That was nice, too.
Rick Hanski is headed to Vietnam. There, he’s going to whip the world and prove to his family and his sergeant — and everyone else who didn’t think he was cut out for war — wrong. But sometimes Rick can’t help but wonder that maybe everyone else is right. Maybe he should have just stayed at home and worked in his dad’s hardware store. 
When Cracker is paired with Rick, she isn’t so sure about this new owner. He’s going to have to prove himself to her before she’s going to prove herself to him. They need to be friends before they can be a team, and they have to be a team if they want to get home alive.

Code Word Courage by Kirby Larson
Billie has lived with her great-aunt ever since her mom passed away and her dad left. Billie’s big brother, Leo, is about to leave, too, for the war front. But first, she gets one more weekend with him at the ranch.  Billie is surprised when Leo brings home Denny, a fellow Marine from boot camp. She has so much to ask Leo — about losing her best friend and trying to find their father; she doesn’t want to share him. But Denny, who is Navajo, or Diné, comes with something special: a gorgeous, but injured, stray dog. As Billie cares for the dog, whom they name Bear, she and Bear grow deeply attached to each other.  Soon enough, it’s time for Leo and Denny, a Navajo Code Talker, to ship out. Billie does her part for the war effort, but she worries whether Leo and Denny will make it home, whether she’ll find a new friend, and if her father will ever come back. Can Bear help Billie — and Denny — find what’s most important?  A powerful tale about unsung heroism on the WWII battlefield and the home front.

Duke by Kirby Larson
With World War II raging and his father fighting overseas in Europe, Hobie Hanson is determined to do his part to help his family and his country, even if it means giving up his beloved German shepherd, Duke. Hoping to help end the war and bring his dad home faster, Hobie decides to donate Duke to Dogs for Defense, an organization that urges Americans to “loan” their pets to the military to act as sentries, mine sniffers, and patrol dogs. Hobie immediately regrets his decision and tries everything he can to get Duke back, even jeopardizing his friendship with the new boy at school. But when his father is taken prisoner by the Germans, Hobie realizes he must let Duke go and reach deep within himself to be brave. Will Hobie ever see Duke, or his father, again? 
Also read Liberty and Dash by this author for two other tales about different dogs during World War II.

Semper Fido by C. Alexander London
When Gus Dempsey joins the US Marine Corps, he knows without a doubt that he will make a great dog handler. He’s always been good with dogs. In fact, he’s often better with dogs than he is with people.  But Loki is not the dog that Gus was expecting. Fun-loving and playful, Loki acts more like a pet than the well-trained, bomb-sniffing Marine that he’s supposed to be.  When Gus and Loki deploy to Afghanistan, though, they have no choice but to learn to work together. Because in war, getting along is a matter of life and death.
Dog Tags is a series of stand-alone books, each exploring the bond between a soldier and a dog in times of war. Try the other titles in this series: Strays, Prisoners of War, and Divided We Fall.

Shadow by Michael Morpurgo
With the horrors of war bearing down on them, Aman and his mother are barely surviving in an Afghan cave, and staying there any longer will end horribly. The only comfort Aman has is Shadow, the loyal spaniel that shows up from places unknown, it seems, just when Aman needs him most.  Aman, his mother, and Shadow finally leave the destroyed cave in hopes of escaping to England, but are held at a checkpoint, and Shadow runs away after being shot at by the police. Aman and his mother escape–without Shadow. Aman is heart-broken. Just as they are getting settled as free citizens in England, they are imprisoned in a camp with locked doors and a barbed wire fence. Their only hope is Aman’s classmate Matt, his grandpa, and the dream of finding his lost dog. After all, you never lose your shadow.
Try other Michael Morpurgo books about brave companion animals…just not necessarily dogs.

Max: Best Friend. Hero. Marine. By Jennifer Li Shotz
When Justin’s older brother, Kyle, is killed in Afghanistan, Justin can’t believe that his brother is really gone. Except there’s one thing that Kyle left behind…. 
Max is a highly trained military canine who has always protected his fellow soldiers. But when he loses his handler and best friend, Kyle, Max is traumatized and unable to remain in the service.  He is sent home to America, where the only human he connects with is Justin, and he is soon adopted by Kyle’s family, essentially saving his life. At first Justin has no interest in taking care of his late brother’s troubled dog. However, the two learn to trust each other, which helps the four-legged veteran become his heroic self once more.  As the pair start to unravel the mystery of what really happened to Kyle, they find more excitement–and danger–than they bargained for. But they might also find an unlikely new best friend in each other.

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And there you have it…a whole pack of wonderful dogs!

Do you think your dog could be as brave as these dogs? Do you think you could be as brave as their people? Read one of these books–or all of these books!–and see what you think. I know I am inspired to hug my dog (and maybe try to teach him a few new commands) after reading even ONE of these!

Let me know which one you liked best…or tell me if I missed any. You never know; your recommendation could be someone else’s next favorite book! As always, if you need help finding these or any other books, just ask one of our librarians. We’re always happy to help match books and people.

Happy Reading!
::kelly::