5 Books Featuring…Magic Schools!

If you’re a Harry Potter fan, you’ve probably wondered about how you’d do if you went to school at Hogwarts.  But Hogwarts isn’t the only magical school in the children’s book world!  Try one of these five favorites featuring other magical schools!

In case you don’t remember, our 5 Books Featuring are five related Books–One Old, One New, One Popular with Kids, One Well-Reviewed, and One Favorite of library staff–but you’ll have to guess which is which! Each book has a short synopsis and link to the book in the catalog, so you can easily find and request it.

5 Books Featuring Magical Schools:

Black, Holly.  The Iron Trial iron trial
                               School: The Magisterium

Most people would do anything to get into the Magisterium and pass the Iron Trial. Not Callum Hunt. Call has been told his whole life that he should never trust a magician. And so he tries his best to do his worst – but fails at failing. Now he must enter the Magisterium. It’s a place that’s both sensational and sinister. And Call realizes it has dark ties to his past and a twisty path to his future. The Iron Trial is just the beginning. Call’s biggest test is still to come . . .
Find out how difficult The Magisterium is to graduate from in the sequels…The Copper Gauntlet, The Bronze Key, The Silver Mask, and (coming in 2018) The Golden Tower.


Blackwood, Sage.  Miss Ellicott’s School for the Magically Mindedmiss elicott's school
                                          School: Miss Ellicott’s School for Magical Maidens
Chantel would much rather focus on her magic than on curtsying, which is why she often finds herself in trouble at Miss Ellicott’s School for Magical Maidens. But when Miss Ellicott mysteriously disappears along with all the other sorceresses in the city, Chantel’s behavior becomes the least of her problems.
Without any magic protecting the city, it is up to Chantel and her friends to save the Kingdom. On a dangerous mission, Chantel will discover a crossbow-wielding boy, a dragon, and a new, fiery magic that burns inside her–but can she find the sorceresses and transform Lightning Pass into the city it was meant to be?
So far, this is a one-shot, but maybe if readers really like it, there will be a sequel..?


Mlynowski, Sarah.  Upside Down Magicupside down magic
School:  Dunwiddle Magic School

Nory Horace is nine years old. She’s resourceful, she’s brave, she likes peanut butter cookies. Nory’s father is the headmaster of an elite magic academy, but if Nory wants to enter fifth grade there in the fall, she’ll have to get her “wonky” magic under control. Unfortunately, Nory always turns herself into odd animal combos like a kitten and a beaver or a kitten and a dragon, and she has a hard time controlling herself in her animal form. When Nory fails Sage Academy’s Big Test, she’s sent to live with her aunt and attend  Dunwiddle Magic School, where she meets a group of kids whose magic is also…well…different.
This offbeat new series chronicles the misadventures of Nory and her oddball friends Elliot and Bax, who prove that upside-down magic definitely beats right side up.
The adventures continue for the friends in Sticks & Stones, Showing Off, and Dragon Overnight.


Neff, Henry.  The Hound of RowanHound_of_Rowan
School:  Rowan Academy

Max  McDaniels lives a quiet life in the suburbs of Chicago, until the day he stumbles upon a mysterious Celtic tapestry. Many strange people are interested in Max and his tapestry. His discovery leads him to Rowan Academy, a secret school where great things await him. At Rowan Academy,  young people with Potential are trained to fight an unnamed enemy.  Max and the other apprentices are housed in magically morphing rooms and assigned animal charges. Max is paired with the last lymrill in the world, a nocturnal creature with metallic quills. They train on the Course, where they experience different scenarios as they try to achieve a goal and move up levels as they progress.  But dark things are waiting, too.  When Max learns that priceless artworks and gifted children are disappearing, he finds himself in the crossfire of an ancient struggle between good and evil. To survive, he’ll have to rely on a network of agents and mystics, the genius of his roommate, and the frightening power awakening within him.
Max’s adventures continue in The Second Siege, The Fiend and the Forge, and The Maelstrom.


Smith, L. J.  Wren to the Rescuewren to the rescue
School:  The Magic School

All her life Wren has hoped for an adventure. Now she has one-with a kidnapped princess, a handsome prince, and a magician. What does it matter if the princess is only Tess, her best friend from the orphanage; if the prince is a youngest son with no chance of becoming king; and the magician is an apprentice? Finding herself a natural-born leader (or maybe just bossy!) Wren leads the other three over mountains and past killing spells, fighting battles along the way. But then she finds herself up against some shape-changing magic that may end her life as a human forever!
The four friends’ adventures continue in Wren’s Quest and Wren’s War.


Yep, Laurence.  A Dragon’s Guide to Making Your Human Smarterdragon's guide to making your human smarter
School: Spriggs Academy

Three-thousand-year-old Miss Drake has arranged to send her dear pet Winnie to The Spriggs Academy, an extraordinary school for humans and magicals alike. Winnie is particularly excited about magic class and having Sir Isaac Newton for science. She’s also making new friends–and frenemies. . . .
When a plot to snatch Winnie from her San Francisco home is uncovered, Miss Drake is ready to use all her cunning and magic to thwart it. Not that feisty Winnie needs the help. . . . As a team, the intrepid duo you first met in A Dragon’s Guide to the Care and Feeding of Humans is unstoppable!  Their third adventure is  A Dragon’s Guide to Making Perfect Wishes.


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Oops, that’s six!  But I don’t want to take out any of them…I guess you get a bonus book this time.  🙂  I already cut out the schools based on Grimms’ Fairy Tales.  That might be a later list…

So which of these magic schools sounds the most interesting to you?  Read them all and find out…

As always, if you would like any help finding these or any other books, ask one of our librarians for help.  We love helping you find books!





Book and Audio Review: Fuzzy

Beginning a new year of school is not so easy.  But when you’re a robot, it’s REALLY difficult.  From Tom Angleberger, author of the Origami YodaInspector Flytrap and QwikPick Papers series, as well as Horton Halfpot and Fake Mustache comes another humorous and heartfelt story about a unique character.

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By Tom Angleberger and Paul Dellinger, Narrated by Erin Moon
4 CDs, 4.5 Hours

fuzzyMax Zelaster is a pretty average student a Vanguard One Middle School.   Of course, to even BE at Vanguard One, you have to be pretty bright; the weekly UpGrade Tests see to that; if kids don’t meet their potential they’re DownGraded to a less desirable school in the Federal School Board Program.  The one thing Max excels at is robots…she just loves everything about them…from programming to design.

So when Vanguard One becomes the test site for RIP, the new national Robot Integration Program, Max is hoping that she might get a chance to participate.  When the awkward-looking robot shows up, Max is less than impressed…especially when it trips and falls, barely missing her as it crashes to the ground.  Her quick actions in getting it back up and running though brings her to the attention of Dr. Jones and Lieutenant Colonel Nina, the people running the program.   The two ask Max to be the robot’s guide in the school.  They explain that Fuzzy–whose name is classified, but the nickname comes from the fuzzy logic he uses to problem solve–might be good at retrieving information and learning from experience, but he has no idea how to be a student.  Max agrees.  What an opportunity to learn!

Soon Fuzzy is immersed in Max’s classes, and Max is finding out more and more about Fuzzy.  And even though he’s proving to be a very good friend, she’s asking more and more questions about why a robot is being integrated into a middle school.  It’s kind of weird, right?  Why would a robot have to learn how to be a kid?

Unfortunately, as soon as things start to go smoothly in their classes, Fuzzy manages to get Max in trouble with Vice Principal Barbara, the artificial intelligence that runs the school.  Fuzzy may be making friends and learning all kinds of new skills, but Max is racking up discipline tags, tardiness tags and citizenship tags…and so is Fuzzy.

What is going on with Vice Principal Barbara, who seems to be lurking around every corner, through her view screens, janitorial robots and the eyes, hands and ears she has (literally!) all over the school?   She seems to have it in for both Max and Fuzzy…and all those tags are mounting.  Even though the adults don’t believe them, Max and Fuzzy know that half of the tags are for things that never even happened.  Through the Vice Principal’s actions, Max becomes a student At Risk.  If she’s DownGraded, she could lose her place at Vanguard One, as well as all her friends and any chance to find out more from or about Fuzzy.

Through some excellent code-cracking and a little sneaking around, Max and Fuzzy  start to uncover some truths about the Robot Integration Program and about Rossum Technologies, which runs the program for the government.  They’re sure they’re onto something, because as soon as they start getting some answers, armed men (and one woman) try to kidnap Fuzzy!  When they get him back, it’s Max’s turn.  With some quick  teamwork by Max and her friends, the kids are onto a government conspiracy with Fuzzy at the center.

Can Max and Fuzzy save Fuzzy from being turned into scrap…or worse?  Can they save Max from being kicked out of Vanguard One Middle School?  Can they discover what, exactly is going on with Vice Principal Barbara and Rossum Technologies?  Only time, friendship and a lot of detective work and effort will tell.

fuzzy audioFuzzy is such a fun audio book!  Narrator Erin Moon is a professional actor and award-winning narrator of over 150 audio books.  She gives each of the characters a distinct voice, and the overall package is wonderful.  I love the short chapters in the book, and the terse style translates very well to the audio.  In fact, I want to go look up Erin and see what else she’s narrated, just because I enjoyed Fuzzy so much.

I would highly recommend Fuzzy as a book or an audio book for kids from fourth through eighth grade.  The whole question of artificial intelligence and school tests, which would probably pass unquestioned by younger readers, would be a great discussion topic by older readers.  The book is deceptively easy, because there is a lot of weight to the subject matter.  Like all of Tom Angleberger’s books, there’s also a lot of humor.  Just ask anyone who has read Origami Yoda, or Fake MustacheFuzzy is a science fiction book with a bit of humor, a smidgen of adventure, with a bit of mystery thrown in.  Anyone who likes any of those things should love Fuzzy.

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So if you’re looking for a good book for a car trip, or just to read around town, try Fuzzy.

Some similar books are: Save Me a Seat by Sarah Weeks,  Robot Revolution by James Patterson, or Eager by Helen Fox.

Some similar audio books are: Crunch by Leslie Connor and Have Spacesuit, Will Travel by Robert Heinlein.

As always, whether you’re looking for a book or an audio book, our librarians can help you find the perfect one to suit your needs!  Just ask us…we love to help.

Happy Halloween and Happy Reading!


Old Favorite: A Wrinkle in Time

Do you know which classic children’s book is celebrating it’s 50th anniversary this year?  It’s an old favorite that has remained timeless:   A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle.

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It was a dark and stormy night…and  Meg Murry is up in her bedroom, worrying. The oldest child and only daughter of two scientists, Meg feels like a failure.  Even though her parents are brilliant, Meg has just been dropped to the lowest level in her class. She’s on the verge of being held back, and the other girls in her class think she’s loud and immature. Even Sandy and Dennys, her ten year old brothers think that she should be less of a delinquent.  No one understands that most of the time when Meg gets into fights, she’s defending her family…especially her father and her baby brother, Charles Wallace.

Charles Wallace is her favorite person in the world…her little brother, who didn’t talk until he was four, but who at five seems to be both brilliant and maybe a little psychic. He knows things that he shouldn’t know, and talks like he’s already graduated from college.  But he’s still a little boy, and Meg protects him.  She has to, because the other problem in her life is that her father is missing, and people are talking. No one, not even her mother, knows where he is.

But as Meg and Charles Wallace and their mother are enjoying cocoa in the middle of the storm, they’re interrupted by a peculiar character–Mrs Whatsit, who says she’s lost. After an intriguing conversation, the Murrys help her out and send her on her way.

After school the next day, Charles Wallace meets Meg.  On the way home, they run into Calvin O’Keefe, a boy Meg has seen around school, but who she doesn’t really know. Calvin is smart,  and after a bit of an interrogation from Charles Wallace, the two boys become fast friends, despite an almost ten-year difference in their ages.  Calvin joins the Murrys for dinner, and suddenly Meg finds herself liking the older boy too.  Charles Wallace brings Calvin and Meg to meet his friend Mrs Who, another peculiar woman who is a friend of Mrs Whatsit. That night, after dinner, Calvin and Meg go for a walk.

Just as Meg finishes telling Calvin about her father and how concerned she is about him, Charles Wallace runs up to them and tells them to get ready.  Mrs Whatsit, Mrs Who and a new person…Mrs Which appear, and whisk all three children away to…somewhere through space and time.

Suddenly, Meg, Charles Wallace and Calvin are off on the journey of a lifetime. If they work together, there’s a chance they can find and rescue Meg’s father. But there’s also a chance they could get lost along the way.  Can they overcome the dangers of the universe? Will they be able to stay strong enough to remain together? Can they find their father?

You’ll have to read to find out.

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I remember my first time reading A Wrinkle in Time.  It was the first week of fifth grade, and my teacher, Mrs. Pyle, told us it would be one of the books we’d be reading in the spring. It sounded so interesting that I went to the library and took it out. I read it once, and then read it again.  Then it was in the Weekly Reader Book order, so bought it so I could re-read the best bits as often as I wanted to.

Unlike some of our other Old Favorites, A Wrinkle in Time has never been forgotten. It’s also never been out of print.  It won the  Newbery Award as the most distinguished title in  literature for young readers in 1962.

Madeleine L’Engle wrote several sequels to A Wrinkle in Time, including A Wind in the Door, A Swiftly Tilting Planet, Many Waters and An Acceptable Time.  Several members of the Murry/O’Keefe families have appeared in other of L’Engle’s novels.

If you like science fiction or stories about unusual families, you should enjoy A Wrinkle in Time. It’s a book everyone should read at least once in their lives.  I’d recommend it to a good fifth grade reader, but to understand all the science and emotions in the story, it’s probably best enjoyed in sixth or seventh grade.  It makes a wonderful selection for a parent/child book group.

There’s a 50th anniversary edition of A Wrinkle in Time coming out this spring, with lots of interesting extras included. There’s a graphic novel currently being adapted, that should also come out in the fall of 2012. And although the book was made into a mini series in 2003, it has been optioned to be a major motion picture, maybe in 2013.  If a movie version does get made, I’ll definitely be in line the first week to see it!

So if you’re a fan of A Wrinkle in Time, there’s a lot coming out for the 50th anniversary!  And if you’re not a fan…yet…read the book, and see what you think. Then let me know!


Old Favorites: Five on a Treasure Island

Summer is a time for devouring books like you eat popcorn! Silly books, mysteries, fantasy, series books…whatever strikes your fancy! (Rereading favorites is fun too.)

One of my favorite series growing up was the Famous Five series, by Enid Blyton. I never could decide which one was my favorite so I’ll just start with the first one–Five on a Treasure Island.

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Julian, Dick and Anne barely knew they had a cousin, until their summer holiday plans fall through (Mother and Daddy are going to Scotland, and the summer beach house is not available). With nowhere else to go, Daddy decides they can go to stay with his brother, their Uncle Quentin at Kirrin Bay. Uncle Quentin is a scientist and quite terrifying, even to his brother…but his wife, their Aunt Fanny, seems to be quite nice.  Georgina, their cousin, is another story.

Georgina doesn’t answer to her name, but prefers George. She’s also not very happy to have a bunch of other children hanging about to be entertained. She’s rather rude and abrupt. Julian, Dick and Anne persist in trying to become friends though. The three siblings are amazed to discover that George owns both an island and a castle…Kirrin Castle, which is on Kirrin Island, out in the middle of Kirrin Bay.  When George finally thaws to her cousins, she tells them her big secret–Timothy, the big brown dog that neither of her parents know she has. She even brings her cousins out to the island, to explore the ruined castle and see the shipwreck under the ocean, just offshore.

But when a massive storm hits the seacoast, the old ship comes up out of the depths. The wreck yields a secret, and the cousins are determined to discover what it is.  However, others have noticed the wrecked ship, now out of the water, and they’re willing to do almost anything to find the treasure as well. Will the cousins manage to decipher the clues and get there and uncover the treasure before their mysterious enemies?

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I loved reading The Famous Five books as a kid–their adventures are so daring! They were allowed to go off by themselves anywhere they wanted–on weekend bicycle trips, in gypsy caravans for a week, to abandoned castles in the middle of the ocean overnight. They meet up with robbers and gangsters and crooks and stumble over a mystery wherever they go!

Looking at the books now, they’re definitely dated. The series was originally written in the 1940s; when expectations were very different for boys and girls. George fights so hard to be a boy, which for her, means having the freedom to wear trousers, climb trees, sail a boat and go outside and run.  Something girls of today take for granted. Even if the 70s, when I read them,  there was some truth to George having more freedom if people thought she was a boy, but she seemed over-the-top about it.

But even 60 years (gulp!) later,  the mysteries are exciting, the kids are clever and the danger seems very real. And there is that ability to go off and be adult free for long periods of time. Kids still read the books now, and enjoy them.

I read and re-read Five on a Treasure Island, and all the other  Famous Five books, from the summer I was nine to the summer I was thirteen. Comfortable beach reads, with lots of thrilling action, deadly danger, and smart kids. (And okay–my VERY  favorite was Five Guard a Hidden Discovery–which, sadly, not one library in our network still owns.)


Old Favorites: The Reb and the Redcoats

In honor of the Revolutionary War Wax Museum biography projects going on this week at the Field School, today’s Old Favorite takes place during the American Revolution. Now, there is certainly one old favorite that takes place in the Revolution that everyone knows…Johnny Tremain! But there are others that were popular in their day, that have sadly fallen into relative obscurity… The Reb and the Redcoats, by Constance Savery is one of those books.

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Charlotte Darrington lives in England with her brothers, Joseph and George, and their little sister Kitty. They are currently living with their grandparents and Uncle Laurence  in a large manor called White Priory while their father is away in the Colonies, fighting the rebels. Papa sends their Mamma long letters about his time there, and his children gifts.  Charlotte even receives a doll, taken from a rebel household. Patty’s Patty (Charlotte discovers her name on the back of a flag the young rebel owner pinned to her doll’s dress) is beautiful, even though her mysterious smile seems to create trouble.

The best part of living with their uncle, though, is the Reb.

The Reb is a 15-year-old rebel, captured on board a ship from the American colonies, bearing American war dispatches to France. As a prisoner of war, he’s escaped several times, each time helping his fellow prisoners to disappear; he’s even succeeding in passing the information from the dispatches, via some French smugglers he somehow managed to locate before being recaptured. Charlotte’s uncle is now in charge of keeping him locked up and safely under guard.  This is unfortunate for the prisoner, as Uncle Laurence has returned to England after being seriously wounded in a battle, and has just discovered that his best friend was executed for spying. Not only that, but it’s been rumored that the Reb was present at the time. Because of that, Uncle Laurence doesn’t have any patience for rebels, bad behavior or escape attempts. His arrangements for the young prisoner are treated with dismay by the rest of the Darrington family.

But the Reb is proud too, and refuses to even acknowledge his circumstances, or even Charlotte and her brother’s attempts to speak with him. After being ignored once too often, hot-tempered George flies off in a rage at the rebel, even calling him names.  Charlotte in embarrassed and approaches the Reb with an apology. At first, the boy seems to think she’s trying to make fun of him, but she manages to win him over with her sincerity. She is gifted with his real name (Randal Everard Baltimore) and the wrath of Uncle Laurence. But she also gets a glimpse of a lonely boy with a determination she doesn’t understand.

After yet another failed escape that almost costs the Reb his life, Charlotte knows that she must do something to help him.  Fortunately for the Reb, her plan works, and soon the young prisoner is given limited freedom and the friendship of the Darrington children. But in the long run, will Charlotte’s plan help or hurt their prisoner of war’s chances of returning to America?

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Originally published in 1961, I first found The Reb and the Redcoats in fifth or sixth grade, when we studied the Revolution. To me, part of the appeal was seeing the Revolutionary War from a very different point of view…in the eyes of the Darrington family, the Colonists are not only completely wrong, they’re foolish criminals. After reading all about the fictional Johnny Tremain, and the real Paul Revere, George Washington and other larger than life characters of the Revoltutionary War, it was not something I’d ever seen in a book by an American author!

The book holds up well, even after almost fifty years.  The characters feel real, and I loved the Reb and his almost impossible situation.  A few famous characters make an appearance later in the story, and their actions are viewed very differently in England than they were in America.  Loyalties and Loyalists are different in England than in the rebellious Colonies, but love and friendship are universal.

If you like Historical Fiction, or enjoyed learning about the American Revolution, you should enjoy this book. It has a bit of a slow start, mostly because Charlotte seems much younger than the readers the book is written for, but give The Reb and the Redcoats a try.  If you persevere through the first two chapters, you’ll find yourself intrigued by the story of a fifteen year old soldier with something to prove to himself, his captors and his country.


Booklists: Contests!

Last fall Wendy Mass, popular author of Eleven Birthdays and Finally, published a brand new story…a sweet creation!

The Candymakers, by Wendy Mass
Four children have been chosen to compete in a national competition to find the tastiest confection in the country. Who will invent a candy more delicious than the Oozing Crunchorama or the Neon Lightning Chew? Logan  (who has grown up never leaving his parents’ Life Is Sweet candy factory) becomes a finalist, and unexpectedly becomes friends with Miles, Daisy and Philip, his competition. Even though each has a reason for winning, they end up working together and uncover secrets about themselves during the process. It’s a sweet treat  of flavorful fun!

To celebrate, we made a list of other titles featuring contests in books. Some are food contests, others are science contests and others cover lots of different topics. All are fun!  We’ll post these over the next week or so, but to start, here are the books featuring contests with food–some of it edible, some not so much…

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Food Contests:

Berlin, Eric.  The Potato Chip Puzzles
When a local potato chip tycoon invites area kids to an all-day puzzle hunt, Winston Breen is psyched. But it turns out the day is not all fun and games. Their teacher is overly competitive, the puzzles are hard, and someone in the contest is playing dirty in order to win the $50,000 prize! Trying to stop the mystery cheater before it’s too late takes a tough challenge to a whole new level. Puzzles for the reader to solve are included throughout the text.

Dahl, Roald. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
What happens when the five luckiest children in the entire world win the coveted Golden Ticket and walk through the doors of Willy Wonka’s famous, mysterious chocolate factory? What happens when, one by one, the children disobey Mr. Wonka’s orders? None of the contestants  have any idea what’s waiting for them at the end of their semi-sweet day.  A classic!

Davies, Jacqueline. The Lemonade War
Evan and his younger sister, Jesse, react very differently to the news that they will be in the same fourth grade classroom.  They battle it out through lemonade stands, each trying to be the first to earn 100 dollars. As the final days of summer heat up, so does a sibling showdown. Full of surprisingly accessible and savvy marketing tips for running a stand (or making money at any business) and with clever mathematical visuals woven in.

Elish, Dan. The Worldwide Dessert Contest
John Apple longs to win the Worldwide Dessert Contest, but all his delicious desserts have a horrible tendency to change  into something else at the last minute. His technique for overcoming this difficulty involves a search for the greatest chef in the world, the defeat of the thieving title-holder of the contest and a run-in with a judge who has (thanks to John) a caramel apple bonded to his cheek from their last encounter. Slapstick humor adds to the fun.

Herman, Charlotte. My Chocolate Year: A Novel with 12 Recipes
Dorrie  is determined to win the Sweet Semester baking and essay contest, but her cakes fall flat, her cookies look like pancakes, and she learns the hard way that chocolate-covered gum is NOT a good idea. Then Dorrie meets her cousin Victor, an immigrant from Europe, who teaches her that a loving family and a safe homeland are the sweetest things of all. With some top-secret tips from Victor’s family’s bakery and a big slice of confidence, Dorrie might just have the yummiest year of her life. Includes recipes.

Kennedy, Marlane. Me and the Pumpkin Queen
Mildred has always dreamed of growing a 1000 pound pumpkin to enter in her town’s Pumpkin Show. And growing giant pumpkins is way more interesting than boys or clothes or the other girly things her Aunt Arlene wants her to like. It’s not easy, especially with problems like crazy dogs and tornadoes, and most people thinking that she doesn’t stand a chance. But Daddy believes in Mildred, and so does her best friend, Jacob. Will this finally be her year?

Kline, Suzy. Orp and the Chop Suey Burgers
Orp is in the seventh grade and has never left Connecticut. When he reads about the Fu Chow Soy Sauce recipe competition that promises a trip for two to Disney World, he creates his own delicious concoction–chop suey burgers. Will Orp win? When he makes the semi-finals in Boston…it seems like Florida is within sight…

Krantz, Hazel.  100 Pounds of Popcorn
When a one-hundred pound bag of unpopped popcorn kernels falls off a truck, the brother and sister who find it decide to start a business and compete to see how much money they can make. Soon, all their neighbors and friends join in, as 100 pounds of unpopped popcorn goes a very long way!

Kurzweil, Allen. Leon and the Champion Chip
Leon has a fabulous new teacher, Mr. Sparks, who conducts science experiments using that most miraculous of research materials — the potato chip.  Mr. Sparks’s lab work will come in handy when Leon is forced to take on Alphonse “The Chippopotamus” Cipollini at the annual Chipapalooza! Chip-Off. Employing scientific methods learned in Mr. Sparks’s class, fifth-grader Leon competes in a potato chip tasting contest and takes revenge against Lumpkin the bully.

Naylor, Phyllis Reynolds. Beetles, Lightly Toasted
Andy will do anything to win the Roger B. Sudermann essay contest on conservation? Leave it to Andy to think of people eating insects as a way of conserving their food budgets. Before long he’s preparing toasted beetles in brownies, mealworm-filled egg salad sandwiches, and batter-fried earthworms for his friends and family. They don’t know what they’re in for, and neither does Andy. He may win the contest but will he lose his friends and family?

Rockwell, Thomas. How to Eat Fried Worms
Because of a bet, Billy is in the uncomfortable position of having to eat fifteen worms in fifteen days. The worms are supplied by his opponent, whose motto is “The bigger and juicier, the better!” At first Billy’s problem is whether or not he can swallow the worm placed before him, even with a choice of condiments from peanut butter to horseradish. But when it looks as if Billy will win, the challenge becomes getting to the worm to eat it. Will Billy win?

Schroeder, Lisa. It’s Raining Cupcakes
Isabel spends her free time in the library, reading and dreaming about faraway places. Then she learns of a baking contest; if she can come up with a winning recipe, she might have a chance of competing in the bake-off in New York City! But Isabel’s best friend, Sophie, is also entering the contest, and things always seem to go Sophie’s way. To make matters worse, Isabel and her mom don’t exactly see eye-to-eye on the type of recipe Isabel should enter.  Will Isabel win? Includes recipes.

Stutz, Eli. Pickle Impossible
Pierre’s family is known far and wide for their delicious pickles. When the pickle farm is threatened, Pierre has to safely transport a jar of world-famous pickles to an international competition. Aurore, a cunning new friend, rescues him from kidnappers in the first leg of the trip. Together they set off with just twenty-four hours until the competition begins. To protect their pickles on the journey, they must navigate the ghostly catacombs of Paris, figure out how to safely crash-land a plane, enlist the help of a world-class scientist, and escape a villain who will stop at nothing to capture their jar of pickles.

Wooley, Catherine.  Ginnie and the Cooking Contest
Ginnie finds out about a cooking contest where the prize is a trip to Washington, D.C. and decides to come up with the perfect recipes to win. With the help of friends and a lot of trial and error, she comes up with several possibilities. But which one has the best chance of winning?

Zemser, Amy.  Dear Julia
Teenage Elaine is the quiet one in her family, focused on classical French cooking. She likes it that way; who could possibly outshine her stay-at-home yogi dad, a gaggle of precocious brothers, and a politician mother. When Elaine becomes friends with flamboyant Lucida Sans, the girls join a competitive cooking, which leads to a meeting with Elaine’s hero, Julia Child.  YA/Teen collection.

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Try one of these delicious books, and see if you have what it takes to enter any kind of cooking contest! (Personally, I’ll pass on eating beetles and worms. The bake-offs sound good though!

Up next: Academic Contests!  See you in a fewdays!


Booklist: Boys with Swords!

Boys with Swords
Some are ninjas, some are knights, some are normal kids…but they all have one thing in common–they picked up a sword.
The boys in these books end up on valiant quests and in dangerous situations, because of those swords. So pick up a book, and join their adventures!

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Alexander, Lloyd. The Black Cauldron
Taran, Assistant Pig-Keeper, longs to be a hero. He begins his journey with a strange assortment of companions on a dangerous mission to save his beloved land, Prydain.  Packed with action, humor, romance, and gallantry, Taran’s adventures chronicle his beloved Prydain and his battle with the forces of evil.

Allen, Will. Swords for Hire
In the ancient kingdom of Parnall, sixteen-year-old Sam Hatcher and an eccentric Royal Guard set out on a mission to rescue the rightful king who has been imprisoned in a faraway dungeon by his evil brother.

Bell, Hilari, Knight and Rogue: Last Knight #1
Although there hasn’t been a knight errant in over two hundred years, Michael has decided to revive the trade. He’s found himself a reluctant partner in Fisk, a clever rogue who has been given the choice of serving as Michael’s squire or going to jail. Now Michael and Fisk are on a quest to right wrongs, protect the innocent, and make the world a happier place. It’s not going to be easy.

Bell, Hilari. Shield, Sword and Crown Series: Shield of Stars #1
When the Justice he works for is condemned for treason, fourteen-year-old and semi-reformed pickpocket Weasel sets out to find a notorious bandit who may be able to help save his master’s life

Bell, Hilari. The Prophecy
Can a bard, a sword, a unicorn and a hopeless prince save a kingdom? Prince Perryn  sure hopes so. When he unearths a prophecy on how to kill the dragon, Perryn sets out to find the three things needed to make it come true. But, as everyone knows, the only thing more absurd than pursuing a prophecy is believing any of these legends might still be found.

Bradford, Chris. Young Samurai: The Way of the Warrior #1
Orphaned by a ninja pirate attack off the coast of Japan in 1611, twelve-year-old English lad Jack Fletcher is determined to prove himself, despite the bullying of fellow students, when the legendary sword master who rescued him begins training him as a samurai warrior.

Brittney, L. Nathan Fox: Dangerous Times
Nathan Fox, orphaned gypsy and actor extraordinaire is recruited by England’s spymaster general to enter the service of Queen Elizabeth I. The teen is to accompany seasoned agent and ladies’ man John Pearce on a mission to Venice in order to form an alliance with Italy against Spain. But things don’t go as planned, and Nathan is living in dangerous times…

Chima, Cinda. The Warrior Heir
Jack’s small-town world in Ohio begins to unravel when he starts to unleash unintentional bursts of wizardry. When he recovers a powerful sword from an ancestor’s grave, he begins to realize how different he really is…
The first book of the Heir Trilogy.

Crum, Shutta. Thomas and the Dragon Queen
With little more than a donkey, a vest, and a sword, Thomas will have to use all of his courage and determination to battle a beast with many heads, reach a forbidden island, and rescue the princess from a most fearsome dragon-and an even more fearsome fate!

Davis, Tony. Roland Wright: Future Knight #1
Roland Wright wants to be a knight, but his dad is a blacksmith. Only boys from noble families can even dream of becoming knights. When mysterious visitors arrive in the village one day, everything changes. Roland finds himself in the contest of a lifetime, with a real chance to become a page, the first step on the road to knighthood. But can skinny, clumsy Roland beat an opponent who is stronger, older—and doesn’t play by the rules?

Farmer, Nancy. Sea of Trolls
Jack, bard-in-training, is kidnapped and enslaved by a wild band of Viking raiders and must outwit his captors to save both himself and his sister. The Vikings’ half-troll queen orders Jack on a quest to Troll-land, where he battles giant spiders, troll-bears, and a protective mother dragon to find the magical well that will restore the queen’s beauty.

Greer, Gery. Max and Me and the Time Machine
Steve buys a time machine at a garage sale and takes his friend Max to the year 1250, where they land in the middle of a jousting match, with the fierce Sir Bevis as an enemy.

Haberdasher,Violet. Knightley Academy
Henry Grim, a servant at the Midsummer School for Boys, becomes the first commoner to enter the austere Knightley Academy. If Henry excels, the school could open its doors to commoners for good; but vicious sabotage threatens his triumph. On the hunt to identify his saboteurs, Henry discovers a plot to break the treaty and start a war.

Hightman, Jason. The Saint of Dragons
Simon St.George has attended an elite boarding school for eleven years. One day, a man shows up on campus claiming to be his father. Before a day passes, Simon finds himself abducted by this odd stranger and about to be initiated into the family business–dragon-hunting. The man explains that “the Dragon is the source of all that is rotten in the world,” and that since the time of the legendary St. George of England, his descendants have been dragon-hunters. Now Simon is needed to join the fight.

Jennewein, Jim. Sword of Doom
In the fortress of King Eldred the Moody, Dane the Defiant receives honors and a magical rune sword that belonged to his father, but he also finds treachery that sends him and his friends on a quest to retrieve the sword from a thief who hopes it will lead to a fabled treasure.

LaFevers, R. L. Lowthar’s Blade: The Forging of the Blade #1
After his father’s disappearance, Kenric discovers that the evil Lord Mordig has been kidnapping blacksmiths and forcing them to try to re-create the monarch’s sword of power. With the help of a mysterious beggar and a goblin named Hnagi, Kenric travels to the capital, where he encounters elves and magical forces in his efforts to save both his father and his land.

Lake, A.J.  Darkest Age: The Coming of Dragons #1
Edmund, a king’s son in disguise, and Elspeth, a sea captain’s daughter, are the only two survivors of a terrible shipwreck. They just want to go home, but fate has other plans as they are drawn into the fight against an evil warlord terrorizing their homeland. Accompanied by a mysterious minstrel and haunted by magical powers they did not seek, Edmund and Elspeth journey across a savage land of wild boars, fierce rogue knights, and black magic.

Llewellyn, Sam. Lyonesse: The Well Between the Worlds #1
Idris Limpet, living with his family in the once noble but now evil and corrupt island country of Lyonesse, finds his life taking a dramatic turn when, after a near-drowning incident, he is accused of being allied to the feared sea monsters and is rescued from a death sentence by a mysterious and fearsome stranger.

Neff, Henry. The Tapestry: The Hound of Rowan #1
Max McDaniels stumbles upon a mysterious Celtic tapestry in a museum and learns that priceless artworks and other gifted children are disappearing from around the globe. After glimpsing a hint of his destiny in the tapestry, he becomes a student at Rowan Academy, where he trains in preparation for war with an ancient enemy behind the kidnappings.

Newman, Robert. Merlin’s Mistake
When Merlin mistakenly endows him with the gift of knowing the future, Tertius finds it more burdensome than useful when all he really wants is to be a knight. Setting out on a quest with his brothers, that forward-thinking might help them out more than he could have ever imagined.

Paolini, Christopher. Eragon
Eragon believes that he is merely a poor farm boy-until his destiny as a Dragon Rider is revealed. Gifted with only an ancient sword, a loyal dragon, and sage advice from an old storyteller, Eragon is soon swept into a dangerous tapestry of magic, glory, and power. Now his choices could save-or destroy-the Empire.

Roberts, Judson. The Strongbow Saga: Viking Warrior: Denmark A.D. 845, #1
Despite being the son of a chieftain and a princess, Halfdan lives as a slave in Denmark in A.D. 845. Through a tragic bargain he gains his freedom and sets out to claim his birthright.Halfdan shall come to know the glories of true brotherhood and the unspeakable horrors of true evil.

Salvatore, R. A. Stone of Tymora: The Stowaway, #1
Maimum, a young orphan boy who has been bequeathed a stone imbued with mysterious powers. At sea, the boy finds and ally who helps him fend off pirates and beasties as Maimum runs afoul of a terrifying, maniacal demon.

Spradlin, Michael. The Youngest Templar: Keeper of the Grail #1
Orphaned Tristan lived a quiet, unassuming life. When the Knights Templar visit the monastery, he is given the opportunity to accompany the Knights to the Holy Land to help fight in the Crusades. The boy faces peril after peril. He wonders about his identity and his past, often hinted at by the others. Given a dangerous, but important task, Tristan must decide whom he can trust and how he can survive.

Vega, Diego. Young Zorro: The Iron Brand
When men start disappearing from the pueblo of Los Angeles and cattle are missing from Diego’s father’s rancho, Diego and his friend Bernardo encounter an injustice so wicked that they must take action. A story of a land of vaqueros and kidnappers–an exciting world in which a hero is formed.

Williams, Mark. Dragon Sword: Danger Boy #2
Eli’s time-traveling talent leads him to his missing mother’s location. In trying to find her Eli and his friends are hurled far into the past, where they find new allies in the legendary King Arthur and Merlin. Together, they must do whatever it takes to keep the powerful sword Excalibur from falling into Nazi hands.

Winthrop, Elizabeth. The Castle in the Attic
William has just received the best present of his life; an old, real-looking stone and wooden model of a castle, with a drawbridge, a moat, and a finger high knight to guard the gates. William is certain there’s something magical about it. And sure enough, when he picks up the tiny knight, it comes alive! Suddenly, William is off on a fantastic quest to another land and another time—where a fiery dragon and an evil wizard are waiting to do battle.

Yancey, Rick. The Extraordinary Adventures of Alfred Kropp
Little does Alfred know he has been tricked into stealing Excalibur-the legendary sword of King Arthur-and the most powerful weapon ever wielded by man. With an ancient order of knights in hot cars, thugs on motorcycles, and a mysterious international organization following his every lumbering step, Alfred undertakes a modern-day quest to unravel a thousand-year-old mystery and return the sword to its rightful place.

Yolen, Jane. Sword of the Rightful King: A Novel of King Arthur
The newly crowned King Arthur is unsure of himself; too many people want the throne, and treachery is everywhere. So Merlin magically places a sword into a slab of rock, lets it be known that whosoever removes the blade will rule all of England, and invites any man who would dare, to try to pull out the sword. After a bit of showmanship, Arthur will draw the blade (with a little magical help) and his people will rally around him. Except someone else pulls the sword out first…

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So if you’re looking for an exciting read over winter vacation,  find a comfy corner, grab one of these books,  and get ready for quests, fights for survival, and adventures!  Happy Holidays!