MAINE STUDENT BOOK AWARD
2012-2013 Annotated Reading List (copyright 2011 titles)
Publisher, genre, suggested grade levels and number of pages are indicated after each title.
Barrow, Randi G. Saving Zasha. Scholastic Press. Historical fiction. Gr. 4-8. 229p. Good read aloud. World War II is ending and in war-ravaged Russia, German shepherd dogs are despised because they have been trained by Germans to be four-legged soldiers. Mikhail, a 13-year-old, finds one of these dogs near a dying soldier and is determined to secretly save her life.
Bragg, Georgia. How They Croaked: The Awful Ends of the Awfully Famous. Walker & Co. Nonfiction. Gr. 4-8. 184p. This is a gleefully gory accounting of the circumstances surrounding the deaths of 19 famous people, who succumb to a variety of grisly causes. Cartoon illustrations and facts about the individual, their demise, and the era in which they lived, add to these gross but informative accounts.
Davies, Stephen. Outlaw: a Novel. Clarion Books. Adventure/survival fiction. Gr. 5-8. 289p. The children of the British ambassador to Burkina Faso are abducted by Yakuuba Sor, who is allegedly part of an international terrorist group. Jake, 15, and his sister, Kas, 13, are dragged into a conspiracy in the midst of murder and political corruption with only a Smartphone and their wits for weapons.
Denenberg, Barry. Titanic Sinks! Viking. Nonfiction. Gr. 4-8. 72p. Denenberg creates a fictional tabloid that reports on the creation and fatal voyage of the R.M.S. Titanic in April 1912. The launch of the “unsinkable” ship is described and a fictitious eyewitness on board gives readers an insider’s look at the actual sinking. Survivors’ memories of their experiences in lifeboats are recounted along with testimony from later hearings about the disaster. Photographs, menus, and other Titanic memorabilia make this a compelling read on the 100th anniversary of the ship’s fatal voyage.
Duble, Kathleen Benner. Phantoms in the Snow. Scholastic Press. Historical fiction. Gr. 4-8. 226p. Good read aloud. When his parents both die of smallpox, Noah Garrett is sent to live with his uncle on a military base in Colorado in 1944. He tries to fit into a close-knit, rugged group of soldiers at Camp Hale where the Phantoms train. A story of camaraderie and sacrifice, based on a real elite division of military skiers deployed to the Alps in World War II.
Ellis, Deborah. No Ordinary Day. Groundwood Books/House of Anansi Press. Realistic fiction. Gr. 4-8. 159p. The surprisingly optimistic story of a young orphan, Valli, who lives by begging and stealing in the streets of Kolkatta, India. Valli is clever and relatively content despite her impoverished life. She’s proud that her feet never feel pain, unaware that her nerves are gradually being destroyed by leprosy.
Fendler, Donn with Lynne Plourde. Lost Trail: Nine Days Alone in the Wilderness. Down East. Graphic novel. Gr. 4-8. Unpaged. An illustrated account of 12-year-old Donn Fendler’s experiences while lost on Mt. Katahdin. Based on his novel Lost on a Mountain in Maine, this adaptation explains how Fendler was separated from his hiking party and how he managed to survive without food or shelter for nine days.
Fleming, Candace. Amelia Lost: The Life and Disappearance of Amelia Earhart. Schwartz & Wade. Biography. Gr. 5-8. 118p. An intriguing look at the famous aviatrix and the mystery surrounding her final flight. The narrative alternates between chapters about the fatal day her plane went missing in 1937 and chapters detailing her childhood and eventual rise to celebrity status. Handwritten notes, period photos, maps, and sidebars about the early 1900’s, make this an appealing, dramatic read.
Frost, Helen. Hidden. Farrar Straus Giroux. Poetic narrative. Gr. 4-8. 147p. Darra’s father steals a van with 8-year-old Wren hiding under a blanket in the backseat. Wren escapes and Darra’s father goes to prison. Six years later the two meet unexpectedly at summer camp. A suspenseful, thought-provoking novel written in free verse.
Gantos, Jack. Dead End in Norvelt. Farrar Straus Giroux. Humorous fiction. Gr. 5-8. 341p. This year’s Newbery Medal winner is a rollicking story about a 12-year-old Pennsylvania boy facing the summer of 1962 “grounded for life.” His mother relents and allows him out of the house to help an elderly woman type obituaries for the local newspaper. Hells Angels, molten wax, numerous nosebleeds, and suspicious deaths are all part of this unique tale.
Greenwald, Tom. Charlie Joe Jackson’s Guide to Not Reading. Roaring Brook Press. Humorous fiction. Gr. 4-6. 220p. Good read aloud. Sixth grade narrator Charlie Joe proudly boasts that he has never read a book cover-to-cover. Instead he’s been bribing a friend (ice cream for book summaries) for years. When his source decides he’s had enough, Charlie is hard-pressed to finish an end-of-the-year research assignment.
Gutman, Dan. Mission Unstoppable (The Genius Files). Harper. Adventure/survival fiction. Gr. 4-6. 293p. Twins, 12-year-old Coke and Pepsi, are on a treacherous 3000-mile cross-country journey dodging potential assassins with bowler hats. Their unsuspecting parents, traveling with them in an RV, are oblivious to the danger the kids are fending off. They visit quirky, but real tourist attractions (e.g. a giant ball of twine, PEZ and yo-yo museums) and find coded messages that readers can decipher.
Hannigan, Katherine. True (--sort of). Greenwillow Books. Realistic fiction. Gr. 4-6. 360p. Impulsive, feisty, always-in-trouble Delly befriends an odd, mysterious, new classmate who never speaks. Delly invents her own words like “hideawaysis” and “mysturiosity.” When she reaches out to the newcomer both girls benefit. An emotional story with unique characters.
Hartley, A. J. (Andrew James). Darwen Arkwright and the Peregrine Pact. Razorbill. Fantasy. Gr. 4-8. 438p. When his parents are killed in an auto accident, Darwen moves from England to Atlanta where he meets a shopkeeper who gives him a mirror. His classmates are ready to bully the new sixth-grader and the mirror turns out to be a portal into another, frightening world full of scrobblers, gnashers and flittercakes who want something only human children have. An intriguing, imaginative fantasy.
Hilmo, Tess. With a Name Like Love. Margaret Ferguson Books/Farrar Straus Giroux. Mystery. Gr. 4-8. 249p. Good read aloud. Olivene Love, age 13, expects to be in Binder, Arkansas, for three days because that’s as long as her father, an itinerant preacher, usually stays anywhere. Instead she meets Jimmy Koppel, whose mother is in jail for murdering his father and Jimmy swears she’s innocent. Olivene convinces her family to stick around to investigate. A debut novel about injustice and love.
Jacobson, Jennifer Richard. Small as an Elephant. Candlewick Press. Adventure/survival fiction. Gr. 4-8. 275p. Good read aloud. Jack wakes up in a campground at Acadia National Park and finds his mother has abandoned him. She’s single and bipolar and he’s afraid asking for help will result in his being taken away from her. So he sets off alone for Boston, traveling through coastal Maine towns with only a small, toy elephant for company.
Jeffrey, Mark. Max Quick: The Pocket and the Pendant. Harper. Science fiction. Gr. 4-8. 294p. Max has no memory of his past and is on the run from an orphanage when time suddenly stops for everyone on Earth. He and Casey, a girl who is also unaffected, set out together to make things right in spite of aliens, mythological beings, and startling secrets about Max’s past.
Kang, Hildi. Chengli and the Silk Road Caravan. Tanglewood. Historical fiction. Gr. 5-8. 178p. Chengli, taking a valuable piece of jade bequeathed to him, joins a caravan to learn more about the father he never knew. He tends camels and donkeys, then eventually faces thieves, kidnappers, and a headstrong princess in danger. The book offers readers a look at life in 7th century China.
Kessler, Liz. A Year Without Autumn. Candlewick Press. Science fiction. Gr. 4-8. 294p. A suspenseful story about a 12-year-old girl who takes an elevator ride into the near future and sees catastrophe looming for herself and her best friend, Autumn. Can Jenni somehow prevent the devastating accident and the resulting trauma?
Kozlowsky, M.P. Juniper Berry. Walden Pond Press. Fantasy. Gr. 4-6. 227p. As Juniper’s movie-star parents’ careers soar, they suddenly become nasty and zombie-like. Giles’ parents change for the worse, too, and he’s convinced it has something to do with a mysterious tree on the grounds of Juniper’s mansion. The children find a hidden staircase in the tree, and a horrifying creature living underground.
Larson, Kirby. The Friendship Doll. Historical fiction. Gr. 4-6. 201p. A doll sent as an ambassador from Japan to the United States in 1927 travels from New York City to Oregon, touching the lives of five girls over several decades. Each girl’s story reflects American life then, with details about the Great Depression, Pearl Harbor, the Dust Bowl, and the World’s Fair. Japan presented the U.S. with 58 handcrafted, life-sized dolls, and these stories parallel the real-life fate of one. You can visit another one of these dolls, Miss Yamagata, at the Maine State Museum.
Lewis, Gill. Wild Wings. Atheneum Books for Young Readers. Realistic fiction. Gr. 4-6. 287p. The touching, yet inspiring, story of a Scottish boy, an outcast girl, and an e-mail friend in The Republic of The Gambia, all working to save an endangered osprey. A complex, ecological tale of friendship and hope.
Luper, Eric. Jeremy Bender vs. the Cupcake Cadets. Balzer + Bray. Humorous fiction. Gr. 4-6. 235p. Good read aloud. Two boys, desperate for some cash to repair the antique motorboat they ruined, join the Cupcake Cadet girls’ club disguised in skirts and wigs. The club is sponsoring a model sailboat race with a $500 prize that the boys are determined to win.
Magoon, Kekla. Camo Girl. Aladdin. Realistic fiction. Gr. 4-8. 218p. Two outsiders -- Ella, the only biracial student, and “Z,” a homeless, loner -- are best friends in a middle school near Las Vegas until a new African American boy, Bailey, enrolls at the school and takes an interest in Ella. Ella has a tough choice: be loyal to Z or befriend Bailey. An insightful story with appealing characters.
McMann, Lisa. The Unwanteds. Aladdin. Fantasy. Gr. 4-8. 390p. Twin brothers, Aaron and Alex, face the Purge, an annual event in their nation of Quill when all 13-year-olds are sorted into three categories: Wanted, Necessary, and Unwanted. Alex, declared an Unwanted, thinks he is about to be eliminated, but finds his kind are actually rescued and trained in magic in a secret world that hopes to overcome Quill. Is creativity, technology, and magic a match for this totalitarian society?
Nelson, Kadir. Heart and Soul: The Story of America and African Americans. Balzer + Bray. Nonfiction. Gr. 4-8. 108p. Stunning full-page paintings by the author help tell this powerful, personal narrative about the role of African Americans in American history from the Colonial era to the present. The anonymous, grandmotherly storyteller gives a credible perspective to this beautifully illustrated epic.
Neri, Greg. Ghetto Cowboy: A Novel. Candlewick Press. Realistic fiction. Gr. 4-8. 218p. Cole’s mother, distraught over his behavior, drives this seventh grader to Philadelphia to live with a father he’s never known who leads a group of urban cowboys. They rescue aged racehorses from the slaughterhouse so street kids can learn to ride and care for them. Now
the city wants to develop the land the stable is on. Based on real cowboys in inner-city Philadelphia and New York City.
O’Dell, Kathleen. The Aviary. Alfred A. Knopf. Adventure/survival fiction. Gr. 5-8. 339p. Five terrifying birds live in an iron cage in the Glendoveer mansion’s garden and one seems to be talking to Clara, the housekeeper’s daughter. Baby Elliot has disappeared and there are rumors that the five other Glendoveer children have drowned. Kidnapped children, magic, and family secrets converge in this spooky tale set in Maine in the early 1900’s.
Oliver, Lauren. Liesl and Po. Harper. Fantasy. Gr. 4-7. 307p. Two ghosts from the “Other Side,” visit Liesl with a message from her dead father. Meanwhile an alchemist’s apprentice accidentally grabs the box with Liesl’s father’s ashes instead of a box containing “the most powerful magic in the world.” A crazy, complicated chase ensues in the midst of a haunting tale of loss and acceptance.
Oppel, Kenneth. This Dark Endeavor: The Apprenticeship of Victor Frankenstein. Simon & Schuster. Fantasy. Gr. 7-8. 298p. A prequel to Mary Shelley’s gothic classic. Victor Frankenstein’s twin brother, Konrad, is seriously ill and near death, and Victor is determined to save him by concocting a magic potion, the Elixir of Life, with help from his cousin, Elizabeth, and a friend. The trio risk their lives to gather three nearly-impossible-to-get ingredients while Victor’s internal struggles propel him toward his frightening future.
Santat, Dan. Sidekicks. A.A. Levine. Graphic novel. Gr. 4-6. 215p. Captain Amazing, unable to fight crime due to a peanut allergy, decides to hold auditions for a new sidekick. His loyal dog, his hamster, his new chameleon, and even his runaway cat all want the job. Meanwhile his nemesis, Dr. Havoc, is threatening to destroy the city. A tale of jealousy and cooperation. (Two graphic novels of this same title were published in 2011. Be sure to read the one by Santat.)
Schmatz, Pat. Bluefish. Candlewick Press. Realistic fiction. Gr. 6-8. 226p. Travis lives with his alcoholic grandfather, misses his beloved dog, Roscoe, and has a well-kept secret. Velveeta, a talkative, quirky girl with some sad secrets of her own, befriends him. These two eighth graders share a moving story.
Schmidt, Gary D. Okay For Now. Clarion Books. Historical Fiction. Gr. 6-8. 360p. When he and his family move to Marysville, New York, in 1968, Doug, from Schmidt’s The Wednesday Wars, finds out there’s more to the “boring” town then he assumes. A John James Audubon painting is featured in each chapter, as Doug pours over them at the local library and uncovers a talent he didn’t know he had.
Selznick, Brian. Wonderstruck: A Novel in Words and Pictures. Scholastic Press. Historical fiction. Gr. 4-8. 637p. Two stories, fifty years apart, intertwine in a surprising, wonderful way. Text tells the story of Ben, a 12-year-old, who loses his hearing just after his mother dies, and heads to New York City in 1977 to find the father he never knew. Rose, whose story is told entirely in detailed illustrations, lives in Hoboken in 1927 and also runs away to New York City to follow her dreams. Both are drawn to the American Museum of Natural History where their stories meet in perfectly paralleled plots.
Shang, Wendy Wan Long. The Great Wall of Lucy Wu. Scholastic Press. Realistic fiction. Gr. 4-6. 312p. Lucy Wu’s awesome sixth grade year disintegrates rapidly. Her grandmother’s long-lost sister from China moves into her room. Her parents insist she attend Chinese school on Saturdays and she faces stiff competition when she tries out for captain of the basketball team. A touching and humorous story laced with intriguing Chinese proverbs and history.
Stanley, Diane. The Silver Bowl. Harper. Fantasy. Gr. 5-8. 307p. When Molly, a scullery maid at Dethemere Castle, is promoted to silver polisher, she sees visions in the king’s ceremonial hand basin of a curse on the royal family coming true. Only she can stop it and save Prince Alaric’s life. Historical details are woven carefully into this fantasy with a surprising ending.
Thomson, Sarah L. Mercy: The Last New England Vampire. Islandport Press. Mystery. Gr. 6-8. 178p. Haley’s favorite cousin, Jake, has a mysterious terminal illness. She’s working on a family history project and decides to research Mercy Brown, an ancestor accused of being a vampire. When she interviews her reclusive Aunt Brown, she finds a haunted glove and comes to a horrifying conclusion. Inspired by a true New England story.
Van Draanen, Wendelin. The Running Dream. Alfred A. Knopf. Realistic fiction. Gr. 6-8. 336p. Jessica, a star sprinter slowly recovers from the loss of her right leg in a car accident. Readers follow her gradual acceptance of her new life along with her new understanding of a classmate, Rosa, who has cerebral palsy. In spite of its tragic beginning, this is an upbeat story about seeing people for who they are, not categorizing them by their handicapping condition.
Weissman, Elissa Brent. Nerd Camp. Atheneum Books for Young Readers. Realistic fiction. Gr. 4-6. 261p. Even though Gabe is personally excited about attending a six-week-long camp for gifted kids, he is horrified that his step-brother-to-be, Zack, might think it’s a nerdfest. Zack, the same age as Gabe, is a cool, guitar-playing surfer from LA. Can they have a brotherly bond despite their differences?
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