The next few reviews will be dedicated to outstanding new books that will surely encourage kids, ages nine and up, to capture the love and joy of reading. The last book is best suited for teens and adults.
The One and Only Ivan, by Katherine Applegate, should be a definite candidate for the next Newbery award – it’s that good! The entire story is told through the eyes of Ivan, a sweet gorilla who lives in a mall. He watches his limited world through the glass that encases him and only has the friendship of an elephant, a stray dog and Julia (a young girl who comes at night while her father cleans the mall). What you learn through Ivan’s eyes are poignant, enlightening and somewhat sad. He yearns for others of his species and for greenery, the sky and smells through clean air. When his owner purchases a baby elephant, his life begins to change as mall life becomes strained at the weight of difficulties that Ivan faces. The sentence structure reads almost like free verse due to its sparsity. But don’t be mislead because it reads with power, interest and intensity. The drawings sprinkled throughout, by Patricia Castelao, move the story along perfectly. Also, there’s a helpful glossary in the front of the book defining gorilla terminology.
The Mark of Athena (The Heroes of Olympus Bk. 3), by Rick Riordan, continues the excitement and adventures from the previous books in this excellent series: “The Lost Hero” and “The Son of Neptune”. In the 2nd book, “The Son of Neptune”, Percy and his two friends met in Camp Jupiter and then began a very dangerous quest. In this book, the heroes unite but there is a problem. They equal six but they need seven to complete the Prophecy. Get ready for another page-turner from start to finish!
The Wondrous Journals of Dr. Wendell Wellington Wiggins, by Lesley M. M. Blume, and ingeniously illustrated with pen and black ink by David Foote, is a tongue-in-cheek lexicon describing secret animals never before known. The diaries of Dr. Wiggins were thought to be lost until recently found and they unearth some of life’s deep secrets long before even dinosaurs roamed this planet. Some of these secrets include Hermit Crab Humans, Land Whales and Gargantuan King Mosquitoes. This inventive book will surely bring out ingenuity in all who read it. What a perfect book for teachers looking for sparks to get students creativity moving!
War Horse, by Michael Morpurgo, will draw you into this story that’s based on a true event during World War I. This is the story that the famous movie was based on, but as always, the story is so much better (partly because it’s so well written). The story is written from the young horse’s point of view which may seem to be disconcerting. But within a few paragraphs, you’ll be transported back in time and this viewpoint becomes necessary. The horse gets separated from his English cavalry and now is part of the German army. He does eventually end up back in the Allied Army but the conversations of soldiers on both sides makes this book invaluable!
The Last Dragonslayer, by Jasper Fforde, is a thrilling magical adventure that will sweep you away from the beginning page to the last (thankfully this is the first in a planned series). Fifteen-year-old Jennifer is in charge of running Kazam, an employment agency for magicians. But times are difficult and magic must be spread out in a limited fashion in order that it doesn’t run out and that’s just what Jennifer is making sure happens. But everything changes when a magician who predicts the future sees the last dragon being killed by an unknown dragonslayer – and Jennifer will venture out to find him. But what she discovers will be surprising and amazing!
The Unwanteds, by Lisa McMann, is a book I accidentally came upon by seeing many requests of it online. But it soon became evident why this series (this is the first of three books in this series) is so popular. This fantasy is set in a land where thirteen-year-olds become either “Wanted” or “Unwanted”. If you’re chosen as a Wanted, you are able to get more education and move on with life. But what happens to the Unwanteds? You’ll be turning pages quickly to find out!
Stealing Air, by Trent Reedy, is a story about friendship, teamwork and empathy. Brian’s family has recently moved to Iowa and he has to make new friends. And he does in the very first pages of the book. But the way he does it is clever, exciting and will surely invite any who open this book to keep reading! The inventive friendship becomes more bonded when Brian and two others decide to build an airplane! It’s a good thing Max is a genius!
Emily and Jackson Hiding Out, by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor, is a rootin’ tootin’ story that begs to be read-aloud! Emily and her orphan friend, Jackson, have barely escaped their horrible uncle’s clutches and are now living with a loving aunt. But just a horny-toad minute! Now someone’s sneaking around for an orphan on the run. If Jackson is caught, that someone will reap a mighty reward. Now what’s a kid (or 2) to do? Sufferin’ succotash! There are dastardly deeds to be undone here!
Outcasts United, by Warren St. John, is based on a true story of a refugee soccer team in Clarkston, Georgia. This team was compiled of boys from families of war-torn nations where many of these players had lost family members to imprisonment or worse. There are many challenges the team faces and somehow rises above it all. Keeping the boys out of gangs and in school showcases the great sacrifices the coach makes to advance their lives in a positive way.