JULY


The True Blue Scouts of Sugar Man Swamp by Kathi Appelt
Author of The Underneath and Keeper (one of my least favorite books). This is about the lives of creatures (including human) of Sugar Man Swamp. Two racoons, Bingo and J'maiah, who are the scouts, Chap, who has become the man of the house since the sudden death of his grandfather. Evil landlord and crazy alligator wrestler, Sonny Boy Beaucoup and Jaeger Stitch, who have plans to raze the whole dang swamp. and a cast of excellent supporting characters. This has conflict (although there is never quite the tension there could be), and humor. It was a quick, enjoyable read that would make a good read aloud. Lesson guide at the end in this copy with good questions. Very good. 3rd+

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
I couldn't remember much from my first reading of this Newbery, so though a reread would be good. Such a strange book. It made a bit more sense this time as I pieced together who Jack (the killer) was, who were the girls, ghostly and human, and what was going on with the tomb deep under the graveyard as well as the land of the ghouls. Pretty creepy for a lot of kids, but most can read it in the fiction mindset. Good 5th+

I,Q Book Five: the Windy City by Roland Smith and Michael Spradlin
I actually just saw that this is I comma Q and not I.Q. duh. Love this series. In the vein of Alex Ryder, Q and Angela (Q and A!!) are deep into spy intrigue but terrorism still happens. This can be a bit violent, and there is a pause to reflect on the sadness of even a bad guy plunging to his death. Action from page on to the last page--and we can't wait for the conclusion. Please! Excellent. 4th+

Half Brother by Kenneth Oppel
Not quite what I expected for some reason. Ben's life changed the day his mother brought home 8 day old Zan in a university experiment to determine whether chimpanzees can acquire language skills. Zan is treated like Ben's little brother but taught sign language. He is dressed, eats with the family, has toys and a bedroom. But it gets complicated very quickly. The underlying story is the family relationships which also became complicated. Thrown in are Ben's relationships with friends and Jennifer, who becomes an experiment for Ben. Well-written. Almost OK for 5th except lots of kissing and some sexual references. Emotionally charged. Very good. YA.

Spirit Animals: Wild Born (Book 1) by Brandon Mull
The land of Erdas is threatened by a rising evil. Two boys and two girls receive their spirit animals and they are the reincarnation of their region's guide. The greencloaks recognize the uniqueness of these occurrences and begin to prepare for conflict. Mull writes good fantasy. This has strong male and female characters with varied strengths. CCBA nominee. 4th+

Slanted Worlds Book Two of Obsidian Mirror by Catherine Fisher
Holy Complications, Batman! From Black Plague Italy in the 1400s to Victorian and then WWII London. From the Wintercombe castle of the present to the apocalyptic future of Janus. Who are all these people?? Fairies, time travelers, and dytopian dictators. To quote "genre busting fantasy at its best". If you can keep up. Very good. YA for complicatedness.

The Girl who Was Supposed to Die by April Henry
"Take her out back and finish her off"--It jumps off from there and never slows down. Cady doesn't remember anything except that someone wants her dead. Ty makes the split second decision to help her and it's a race to the last page. This is a thriller. Not enough violence to make it middle school inappropriate although not for the sensitive reader. They'll know that after the first chapter. Excellent YA

Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea by April Genevieve Tucholke
With a clearly old-fashioned, hooked-to-the-past feel, this horror story pulls you in deeper and deeper until it suddenly moves into a very scary conclusion. Twins Violet and Luke are living in their family estate while their parents are off somewhere painting. They invite a renter into the guest cottage and River West shows up and changes everything. There could be some great discussion about moral relativism about three quarters of the way through. It is perfectly fine for middle school right up to the twisted horrific climax. Which is just too intense, violent, and sexual for middle schoolers. Oh well. YA for High School.

The Testing by Joelle Charbonneau
You know The Hunger Games, The Selection, Divergent, or Partials? Wash, rinse and repeat...This is not original but it will be popular among those who can't get enough dystopia and misguided government control. Or kid on kid violence. Or hunger, thirst and infections. Cia goes off from her small village to Testing which her father warns her about. Tomas also goes and they team up to survive the various stages. This is better than Selection but not quite up to Hunger Games. Very very violent. But OK (how sad is that?) for middle school. YA.

In the Shadow of Blackbirds by Cat Winters
Not that much fiction on the Spanish Influenza and WWI. The year the devil designed-1918. Mary Shelley Black flees her home after her father has been arrested for treason and moves in with her young aunt in San Diego. Love story, ghost story, murder mystery, historical, this novel has just about everything. It's pretty macabre with bodies from the flu everywhere, and returning maimed soldiers, but no worse than most world war stories. The flashes between sanity and madness add another touch of fear, as does the spiritualism element. Very good although not for younger readers. YA for some sexuality and much blood.

Top Secret Twenty-One by Janet Evanovich
adult adult adult. This is written for middle aged women--who appreciate how funny sex can be along with life. Best parts of this one--Grandma mazur's bucket list which includes seeing Ranger naked, the pack of feral chihuahuas that Stephanie ends up babysitting, the usual destruction of cars by bombs, and the usual bounty warrants. ADULT

This Song Will Save Your Life by Leila Sales
(was it hard to find four six letter words for this title?) I'm a bit ambivalent about the grade level for this book. It starts with a suicide attempt and includes some nights spent naked with an older boy. But very little rough language and sex did not actually occur. The cyberbullying and in school bullying was much more hurtful. The character is precocious to use her own words, but in her mind that just equals not normal. I'm thinking this would be a good read at Quest because of the population of "not normal" kids. But it's really heavy reading. 8th grade? YA for sexuality.

The Clockwork Scarab by Colleen Gleason "A Stoker and Holmes novel"
Sherlock Holmes' niece Mina and Bram Stoker's sister Evaline join loosely to solve the murder of three young socialites in this steampunk mystery set in 1889 which includes a time traveler from 2016. Stoker is a vampire hunter, so there is also the occult element here. This is complicated with serious doses of victorian romance tossed in for both women. Really strong heroines. Nice plot. Open ended. YA for violence and romance. OK for middleschoolers.

The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin
Worst of July for me. There were too many times when I couldn't decide if Mara was truly psychopathic. Or had spiritual powers. Or a bad case of PTSD. And then throw in the weirdness of Noah who is "richer than God" and makes girls swoon. People die. Dogs are abused. Parents wring hands. And this is just the opener for a series. Ick. YA for badness. and sexuality. Blue Spruce nominee--not for middle school

This is What Happy Looks Like by Jennifer E Smith
Happy time--no murders, no weird spirits, no hallucinations, no sociopaths (well, except maybe the paparazzi). This is a sweet love story with a nice plot line--meeting over email, a girl with a secret meets a teen movie star. Complications when they meet in her small Maine seaside town. This is well written and has a nice conclusion. I liked it. A lot. YA for dating and infidelity by a Senator.

Teardrop by Lauren Kate
Before her unbelievable death, Eureka's mother told her "Never, ever cry!". So she hasn't. Suicide attempt yes. Terrible therapy sessions, yes. but no crying. This is a bit like Percy Jackson ratcheted up by ten and remove the humor. Ancient mythology mixed with apocalyptic craziness. Plus some romance. Sexuality is limited to hot feelings. But one murder scene is pretty graphic as well a a kidnapping. For mature middle schoolers.The plot line moved a bit slowly for my taste. Also first of a series which only continues in October. YA for violence.

Love in the Time of Global Warming by Francesca Lia Block
A modern Odyssey. Also a heavy handed story about global warming, chemical poisoning, and homosexuality. There are elements of magic that just seemed awkward. And the Odyssey story was forced. Pen's self-discovery about her sexuality was more than a bit confusing. The butterfly bit seemed straight out of 100 Years of Solitude. Definitely not my genre. High School for language, sexuality and literary themes that wouldn't make sense to a middle schooler.

Proxy by Alex London
Far future Mountain City is divided into the wealthy region of Patrons and the Valve slum of poverty where most people are Proxies. Knox is a careless rich boy who thinks of his wrongdoings as mischief until he wakes up to discover he has killed a girl in a car wreck. His proxy, Syd, will take the punishment. But Syd has a tatoo that seems to mean something and a strong desire to live. Escape. Meeting of the Patron and Proxy. Flight to Old Detroit to find the Rebooters. This is violent (because the society is violent) but moves at a breakneck speed. Well done. YA for violence. Syd is gay, and that is treated in a very relaxed manner as part of the story. Some kissing, but way more killing. Really thoughtful.

Lockwood & Co: The Screaming Staircase by Jonathan Stroud
I've had this to read for a year. It was a hard start for me. By the finale I was satisfied and would recommend this to anyone who likes ghost stories. But it's British (difficult for many kids), and the premise of ghost invasion and teen ghost hunters is a stretch. The plot twist at the end is good, but slooooow start for me. OK. Violent. Almost YA. for mature 5th+

Under The Egg by Laura Marx Fitzgerald
Unusual art mystery. With his dying breath, Theo's grandfather tells her there is a treasure under the egg. This develops into a hunt for the history of a strange painting that could possibly be a Raphael. Lots of intrigue (WWII art plundering) and research. Who knew it could be so exciting!? This might be a hard sell to intermediate readers, but it's entertaining, has great characters, and plot twists. Very good. 4th+

Alliance by Mark Frost
book two after Paladin Prophecy. Crazed scientists, secret society, prehumanity creatures, superpowered smart kids. What's not to like? This moves pretty quickly through the continuing conflict of the Paladin Knights of Charlemagne with Will West and his friends (or are they???). Not a good closure at the end and how long will we have to wait? YA OK for 6th+

Bluffton by Matt Phelan
graphic novel about summers in Bluffton/Muskegon Michigan in the early 1900s when the vaudevill performers came to relax, including Buster (Keaton, that is). Soft pastels reinforce the slow summer feel. This is nice. 200+ pages. Very good. 3rd+

The Abominables by Eva Ibbotson
The Yetis have lived happily for eons until a small girl comes into their life, civilizes them and then has to help them find a safe place. Obviously far-fetched for a plot but has some lovely points about being kind woven into the ridiculous story line. I have always enjoyed Ibbotson's fantasy and this is her last. 4th+ Very very good

The Boy on Porch by Sharon Creech
Unusual story. I'm not even sure it's for kids. A boy shows up one day on John and Marta's porch. He never speaks, but he can make music and art that moves them. This ends up speaking to the topic of foster care from the parent perspective. Because of my current involvement in supporting my son's family in becoming a foster family, I cried a lot. Not sure if others would. Who cares. It's Sharon Creech for goodness' sake. 4th+ Excellent.