Staff Picks 4 Kids Category: For Grades 4-6

I Will Always Write Back by Caitlin Alifirenka and Martin Ganda

Cover image for I will always write back : how one letter changed two livesStarting as an assignment for school, Caitlin is a middle school student in the United States who decides to write to Martin in Zimbabwe. They learn about each other’s lives and become friends long after the assignment has been completed. As Caitlin realizes that Martin and his family are in increasing danger in their country, she and her family find ways to help and eventually get Martin to the United States so he can continue his education. It’s a true story.

Book reviewed by Anne W., Youth Services Assistant

The Gathering by Dan Poblocki

Cover image for The gatheringLooking for a chapter book that sends cold shivers up your spine? Look no further than The Gathering, the first book in the “Shadow House” series by Dan Poblocki.  Five children from across the U.S. are lured to the mysterious Larkspur House under false pretenses. Is it a music academy? Is it the residence of a long-lost great aunt?  What they find inside the immense building is something completely different. Once the kids are behind the locked doors, they may never leave again.  One of the strengths of this unique title is its connection to an app called “Shadow House” which can be downloaded for free from the Google Play app for Android smartphones or from the Apple app store for iPhones. Once the app is downloaded, the reader can access additional ghost stories every time a sigil, or symbol, is discovered on a book page. I enjoyed the app’s creepy music and stories as well as the spooky illustrations. The book will entice you without the app, but I recommend trying the app to add to the chilling experience.

Book reviewed by Amy M., Youth Services Assistant

Book Scavenger by Jennifer Chambliss Bertman

Cover image for Book scavengerA cross country move, secret puzzles, mysterious clues, bumbling bad guys, and a race to find the answers all equals one action filled book! In the Book Scavenger, Emily and her new friend James race around San Francisco as they solve clues and decode secret messages. It all started when Emily and James found a mysterious book in the subway. However, a couple of strange men want the book and are only a step or two behind. Read this book if you like puzzles, problem solving, and mysteries.

Book reviewed by Keary B., Youth Collection Librarian

Making it Right by Marilee Peters

Cover image for Making it right : building peace, settling conflictLet’s talk about real life superheroes! When bad things happen, we can’t call Batman or the Avengers, but there are things we ourselves can do. Making it Right, by Marilee Peters, explains how the criminal justice system, which makes rules on how to deal with crime, was developed and how it works today. Most of the time in the US, people go to court and have lawyers, a judge, and jury decide what happens. At school, the principal probably decides your punishment. In some communities, the offender and victim meet, along with a mediator, learn more about each other’s perspectives, and decide together what the offender can do to make up for their wrong. There are stories about kids who learn how to resolve fights at school, kids in New Orleans who worked on solving problems in their schools after Hurricane Katrina, and the ways young people in South Africa worked to heal after apartheid. I thought this was a really interesting book, and a good one to check out to help you deal with problems at school and beyond. All around the world, kids like you are doing something to help others and make the world a better place. Pick up this book if you want to start learning more!

Book reviewed by Claire B., Youth Outreach Librarian

A Night Divided by Jennifer A. Nielsen

Cover image for A night dividedImagine that someone builds a wall in the middle of the night separating your town into different sides. You have to stay on the side you are on and never get to visit the other side. That is exactly what happened when the Berlin Wall was built to separate the West from the East. Gerta, her brother Fritz, and her mom are on the east side while her father and her brother Dominic are on the west side. The people on the east side are watched very closely, and the people on the west side have better living conditions. Gerta is inspired to get her family to the west side, but can she do it without being discovered by the guards? Read this story to find out!

Book reviewed by Anne W., Youth Services Assistant

The Matchstick Castle by Keir Graff

Cover image for The matchstick castleIf you combined the books Pippi Longstockings by Astid Lindgren and Floors by Patrick Carman it would probably look a lot like The Matchstick Castle by Keir Graff, which is full of over the top characters and an unbelievable house. Readers who are drawn to unusual settings will be pleased to discover the wondrous rooms in the Matchstick Castle including a ship on the roof, underground mines, and who knows how many mazes, trap doors, and secret passages. This book is full of action as the eccentric owners cook up crazy schemes to keep the home from being demolished.

Book reviewed by Keary B., Youth Collection Librarian

Masterminds by Gordon Korman

Cover image for MastermindsEli Frieden has enjoyed a comfortable life in Serenity, New Mexico. What makes the town so perfect? There is no crime and every house in the small town has a pool and a basketball net. Eli and the 29 other kids who live there have never cared that they haven’t explored the world outside the city limits.  Why would they? Everything they could ever want or need is right in Serenity! Eli’s life begins to change when his best friend, Randy, must suddenly move away from Serenity. No other kid has left before!  Once Eli reads a secret note left by his friend, he discovers everything he knows about himself, his family, and even his hometown, has been a lie.  With the help of a few trusted friends, Eli tries to uncover the answers to the questions swirling in his head:  Why aren’t we allowed to leave? What is Project Osiris? Trust me, you won’t want to put this book down until you, too, discover the truth behind Serenity.

Book reviewed by Amy M., Youth Services Assistant

Hilo Book 1: The Boy Who Crashed to Earth by Judd Winick

Cover image for Hilo. Book 1, The boy who crashed to EarthSuper powers? Check! Robots? Check? Aliens? Check! What else could you ask for in a graphic novel! The Hilo series has it all. D.J. and Gina find a mysterious boy, Hilo, who fell from the sky. Together the new friends help Hilo find out who he is and just what he might be capable of. Hilo will have to learn fast though since he wasn’t the only thing to fall to Earth! I loved reading about this modern boy super hero and the friendships he made.  Besides, who wouldn’t want to go to school with a super hero!

Book reviewed by Keary B., Youth Collection Librarian

The Jumbies by Tracey Baptiste

Cover image for The jumbiesWhen a prank finds Corinne La Mer chasing a furry agouti through her island’s forbidden forest, she comes face to face with a mysterious creature hidden in shadow. After dodging it, her terror quickly fades. What she comes to find out later, however, is that some thing followed her out of the trees. That thing is a jumbie, a dark creature of the night. The villagers know that jumbies exist only in old stories. They can’t be real, can they?  The unique island setting and ever-present suspense means that this story is a can’t-miss; just don’t forget to leave your nightlight on!

Book reviewed by Amy M., Youth Services Assistant

Stick Dog by Tom Watson

Cover image for Stick DogHere’s a great series for fans of Diary of a Wimpy Kid or anyone that likes funny chapter books with some illustrations! Stick Dog and his four friends – Stripes, Mutt, Poo-Poo and Karen – scheme to get some delicious looking hamburgers from a family at the park. Distractions and obstacles abound. Will clever Stick Dog find a way to feast? Don’t forget to check out Stick Dog’s other hilarious adventures! Not a dog person? Don’t worry there’s also Stick Cat!

Book reviewed by Keary B., Youth Collection Librarian