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Staff Picks 4 Kids

Dead End in Norvelt by Jack Gantos

Dead End in NorveltIn Dead End in Norvelt by Jack Gantos, Jack ends up getting grounded for an ENTIRE SUMMER through no fault of his own—he couldn’t have known that rifle was loaded, and his dad actually told him to cut down his mom’s corn plants. Instead of playing baseball with his best friend, he ends up helping his crazy elderly neighbor write obituaries as the oldest residents of their town die one after the other.  Oh, and he gets nosebleeds about every other page—especially when he sees dead bodies (yes, he sees more than one!).  This is a very, very funny and sometimes slightly ghoulish story about a kid who, like it or not, learns a little about life—and death.


By bjones on October 22, 2012 Categories: Award Winners, For Grades 4-6, Funny, Realistic Stories

Wonder by R. J. Palacio

WonderIn Wonder by R. J. Palacio, August (Auggie) Pullman’s favorite things are anything Star Wars related and his Xbox.  As a result, he sounds like every other 10-year-old boy out there except for one major factor—he has some pretty jarring facial deformities. Auggie has been homeschooled all of his life, due to the numerous surgeries he has had to have over the years.  Now that he will be starting fifth grade, his parents think that it is time for him to start at a regular school.  He is both excited and worried at the prospect of this idea. While he longs to play sports and make friends like every kid, once he starts at Beecher Prep he quickly becomes an easy target for the class bully.  He also is very close with his older sister, Via, who has just started high school and is having her own issues with friendships and finding herself.  I think that the author was very smart to have the different chapters of the book told from various points of view—not just from Auggie’s and Via’s perspectives, but also from several of his classmates.  I also believe that this book teaches a lot of good lessons on how to be a good friend and a good sibling.


By bjones on September 10, 2012 Categories: For Grades 4-6, Realistic Stories

Anything But Typical by Nora Raleigh Baskin

Anything but TypicalIn Anything But Typical by Nora Raleigh Baskin, Jason Blake is just like any twelve-year-old that enjoys writing stories.  Expect for that fact that he is autistic, which he often describes in his stories as “differentness”.  He is smart and sensitive and often writes about what it is like to see the world through his eyes.  Jason particularly enjoys posting on a writing website.  He even makes a friend on this site, another young writer named Rebecca, who often posts positive comments about his stories.  However, when he might finally get a chance to meet Rebecca in person at an upcoming writing conference, Jason is terrified!  You will have to read the book to find out if he decides to go meet her or not. 


By bjones on July 30, 2012 Categories: For Grades 4-6, Realistic Stories

The Mighty Miss Malone by Christopher Paul Curtis

Mighty Miss MaloneThe Mighty Miss Malone by Christopher Paul Curtis. The Malones of Gary, Indiana have a motto.  “We are a family on a journey to a place called Wonderful.”  Unfortunately, it is the Great Depression, and it seems to be taking awhile to get there.  Twelve-year-old Deza (otherwise known at the Mighty Miss Malone) is the smartest child in her class, but her father is unemployed, and the family must eat buggy oatmeal or go hungry.  First, her father leaves to find work.  Then when her mother loses her job as a maid, the family packs up and sets off to find him.  Deza’s journey is filled with adventures, which include riding the rails, staying in a homeless camp, and going to a night club to hear her brother sing.  Throughout it all, Deza  keeps her sense of humor and her belief that someday her family will be reunited and find their way to Wonderful.

Book reviewed by Mary S., Youth Services Department Head

By bjones on July 16, 2012 Categories: For Grades 4-6, Picks by Mary S., Realistic Stories

With A Name Like Love by Tess Hilmo

With a Name Like LoveWhat would it be like to not have a permanent home? In With A Name Like Love by Tess Hilmo, you can find out. Ollie is the oldest in her family, and her dad is a traveling preacher. Normally the family puts up fliers, invites the people of the town to hear the sermons in the evenings, and then they move on. When Ollie and her family get to Binder, Arkansas, however, they encounter Jimmy Koppel, who is living by himself on the outskirts of town because his mom is in jail for murdering his dad. Jimmy insists his mom did not do it, but no one will believe him. Will Jimmy and Ollie be able to save Jimmy’s mom? Will Ollie and her family leave before they find out who murdered Jimmy’s dad? Read more to find out!

Book reviewed by Anne W., Youth Services Assistant

By bjones on June 25, 2012 Categories: For Grades 4-6, Mystery & Suspense, Picks by Anne W., Realistic Stories

The Boy Who Ate Stars by Kochka

Boy Who Ate StarsAre you looking for a quiet, heartfelt story about a very different sort of friendship?  Then you will like The Boy Who Ate Stars, by Kochka.  Twelve-year-old Lucy has just moved to a new apartment in Paris and met someone who changes her life–little four-year-old Matthew.  He’s so different, he behaves differently and he communicates differently.  Lucy finds out that this is because he is autistic.  As Lucy says, it’s like he’s his own little planet, spinning around in his own little universe.  They are an unlikely pair of friends.  But, as they spend time together and share experiences, they develop a trust and understanding that connects their two different worlds in a very unique way. 

Book reviewed by Mary Ann S., Assistant Head of Youth Services

By bjones on June 13, 2012 Categories: For Grades 4-6, Picks by Mary Ann S., Realistic Stories

Out of My Mind by Sharon Draper

Out of My MindWhat would it be like if you could not walk, talk, or write? What if you had so many ideas and words you wanted to express but could not communicate with other people? In Out of My Mind by Sharon Draper, Melody is an 11 year old girl who wants to have the same experiences as other people. She wants to be a part of the things her classmates are doing. She is very smart, but she is also in a wheelchair and can’t walk, talk, or write. She figures out a way to communicate with her class and the other people around her, and enters a competition for her school. Will her team win? Will she get to make friends with her classmates? Read this book and find out!

Book reviewed by Anne W., Youth Services Assistant

By bjones on May 29, 2012 Categories: For Grades 4-6, Picks by Anne W., Realistic Stories

The Rock and the River by Kekla Magoon

Rock and the RiverI listened to the audiobook of The Rock and the River by Kekla Magoon and really enjoyed it. The story takes place in Chicago in the 1960’s. Thirteen-year-old Sam’s father is very involved in the Civil Rights Movement; the family has even had Dr. King over for dinner! Sam’s older brother and best friend, “Stick,” gets involved with the Black Panthers, a group that seems at odds with the non-violent protests that Stick and Sam have grown up with. After the assassination of Dr. King, things around the city start to heat up, and Sam gets more involved.

Book reviewed by Erin E. Youth Services Programming Coordinator

By bjones on May 14, 2012 Categories: For Grades 4-6, Picks by Erin E., Realistic Stories

Sparrow Road by Sheila O’Connor

Sparrow RoadSparrow Road by Sheila O’Connor. It’s so odd–really! For no good reason that Raine can figure out, her mom decides all of a sudden the two of them have to leave their home in Milwaukee and move to creepy old Sparrow Road, an artist retreat out in the middle of nowhere. Turns out, there are secrets everywhere in and around Sparrow Road, and Raine makes some very personal discoveries about friendship, family, forgiveness and love.  If you like stories that tug at your heart a bit, you’ll like this one. 

Book reviewed by Mary Ann S., Assistant Head of Youth Services

By bjones on May 8, 2012 Categories: For Grades 4-6, Picks by Mary Ann S., Realistic Stories

The Year Money Grew on Trees by Aaron R. Hawkins

syndetics-lcIn The Year Money Grew on Trees by Aaron R. Hawkins, Jackson is only 14 years old when he makes an unusual deal with the neighbor lady next door.  She owns an orchard with 300 apple trees, but since her husband died a few years ago, no one has taken care of it.  If Jackson could get the orchard to produce apples again and make over $8,000, he could “maybe” become the owner.  He has no idea how to grow apples or how much money the apples would make if he did get to sell them.  He talks his cousins into helping him, and it is amazing what they go through to get the trees to produce apples.  After all their hard work, will he really get to keep the orchard, or was he being tricked by the neighbor lady and her son? 

Book reviewed by Mary Lou H., Youth Services Assistant


By bjones on February 20, 2012 Categories: For Grades 4-6, Picks by Mary Lou H., Realistic Stories