Book Review

12 Beauty and the Beast Retellings to Read

When I watched the new Beauty and the Beast trailer teaser last month, I instantly got goosebumps. This movie is going to be magical. Truly fantastic, especially with Emma Watson as Belle! Seriously, though, she's the perfect Belle. Flawless. Beautiful. Well-read. 

I grew up on Beauty and the Beast. I watched the movie so often I wore out the VHS. I read all the Disney Beauty and the Beast storybooks I could get my hands on. I spent my days dreaming about having a library just like Belle's, and at night, I fell asleep to the Disney Beauty and the Beast soundtrack. You can imagine my extraordinary delight when I heard Disney was going to bring this beloved tale back to the big screen. If you're like me, then the wait till March is going to be a bit aggravating. To help pass the time I've created a list of 12 Beauty and the Beast retellings that are sure to keep you entertained. Check out the list of books and their goodreads descriptions below.

1. A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah Maas

When nineteen-year-old huntress Feyre kills a wolf in the woods, a beast-like creature arrives to demand retribution for it. Dragged to a treacherous magical land she only knows about from legends, Feyre discovers that her captor is not an animal, but Tamlin—one of the lethal, immortal faeries who once ruled their world.

As she dwells on his estate, her feelings for Tamlin transform from icy hostility into a fiery passion that burns through every lie and warning she's been told about the beautiful, dangerous world of the Fae. But an ancient, wicked shadow grows over the faerie lands, and Feyre must find a way to stop it... or doom Tamlin—and his world—forever.


81130.jpg

2. Beast by Donna Jo Napoli

Meet the Beast-- before there was Beauty

Orasmyn is the prince of Persia and heir to the throne. His religion fills his heart and his mind, and he strives for the knowledge and leadership his father demonstrates. But on the day of the Feast of Sacrifices, Orasmyn makes a foolish choice that results in a fairy's wretched punishment: He is turned into a beast, a curse to be undone only by the love of a woman.

Thus begins Orasmyn's journey through the exotic Middle East and sensuous France as he struggles to learn the way of the beast, while also preserving the mind of the man. This is the story of his search, not only for a woman courageous enough to love him, but also for his own redemption.


3. Beastly by Alex Finn

I am a beast.

A beast. Not quite wolf or bear, gorilla or dog but a horrible new creature who walks upright—a creature with fangs and claws and hair springing from every pore. I am a monster.

You think I'm talking fairy tales? No way. The place is New York City. The time is now. It's no deformity, no disease. And I'll stay this way forever—ruined—unless I can break the spell.

Yes, the spell, the one the witch in my English class cast on me. Why did she turn me into a beast who hides by day and prowls by night? I'll tell you. I'll tell you how I used to be Kyle Kingsbury, the guy you wished you were, with money, perfect looks, and the perfect life. And then, I'll tell you how I became perfectly . . . beastly.


10103367.jpg

4. Beauty by Robin McKinley

A strange imprisonment...

Beauty has never liked her nickname. She is thin and awkward; it is her two sisters who are the beautiful ones. But what she lacks in looks, she can perhaps make up for in courage.

When her father comes home with the tale of an enchanted castle in the forest and the terrible promise he had to make to the Beast who lives there, Beauty knows she must go to the castle, a prisoner of her own free will. Her father protests that he will not let her go, but she answers, "Cannot a Beast be tamed?"


5. Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge

Graceling meets Beauty and the Beast in this sweeping fantasy about one girl's journey to fulfill her destiny and the monster who gets in her way-by stealing her heart.

Based on the classic fairy tale Beauty and the Beast, Cruel Beauty is a dazzling love story about our deepest desires and their power to change our destiny.

Since birth, Nyx has been betrothed to the evil ruler of her kingdom-all because of a foolish bargain struck by her father. And since birth, she has been in training to kill him.

With no choice but to fulfill her duty, Nyx resents her family for never trying to save her and hates herself for wanting to escape her fate. Still, on her seventeenth birthday, Nyx abandons everything she's ever known to marry the all-powerful, immortal Ignifex. Her plan? Seduce him, destroy his enchanted castle, and break the nine-hundred-year-old curse he put on her people.

But Ignifex is not at all what Nyx expected. The strangely charming lord beguiles her, and his castle—a shifting maze of magical rooms—enthralls her.

As Nyx searches for a way to free her homeland by uncovering Ignifex's secrets, she finds herself unwillingly drawn to him. Even if she could bring herself to love her sworn enemy, how can she refuse her duty to kill him? With time running out, Nyx must decide what is more important: the future of her kingdom, or the man she was never supposed to love.


6. East by Edith Pattou 

Rose has always been different.

Since the day she was born, it was clear she had a special fate. Her superstitious mother keeps the unusual circumstances of Rose's birth a secret, hoping to prevent her adventurous daughter from leaving home... but she can't suppress Rose's true nature forever.

So when an enormous white bear shows up one cold autumn evening and asks teenage Rose to come away with it-- in exchange for health and prosperity for her ailing family-- she readily agrees.

Rose travels on the bear's broad back to a distant and empty castle, where she is nightly joined by a mysterious stranger. In discovering his identity, she loses her heart-- and finds her purpose-- and realizes her journey has only just begun.


7. Entreat Me by Grace Draven

Afflicted by a centuries-old curse, a warlord slowly surrenders his humanity and descends toward madness. Ballard of Ketach Tor holds no hope of escaping his fate until his son returns home one day, accompanied by a woman of incomparable beauty. His family believes her arrival may herald Ballard's salvation.

...until they confront her elder sister.

Determined to rescue her sibling from ruin, Louvaen Duenda pursues her to a decrepit castle and discovers a household imprisoned in time. Dark magic, threatening sorcerers, and a malevolent climbing rose with a thirst for blood won't deter her, but a proud man disfigured by an undying hatred might. Louvaen must decide if loving him will ultimately save him or destroy him.

A tale of vengeance and devotion.


8. Firelight by Kristen Callihan

Once the flames are ignited . . .

Miranda Ellis is a woman tormented. Plagued since birth by a strange and powerful gift, she has spent her entire life struggling to control her exceptional abilities. Yet one innocent but irreversible mistake has left her family's fortune decimated and forced her to wed London's most nefarious nobleman.

They will burn for eternity . . .

Lord Benjamin Archer is no ordinary man. Doomed to hide his disfigured face behind masks, Archer knows it's selfish to take Miranda as his bride. Yet he can't help being drawn to the flame-haired beauty whose touch sparks a passion he hasn't felt in a lifetime. When Archer is accused of a series of gruesome murders, he gives in to the beastly nature he has fought so hard to hide from the world. But the curse that haunts him cannot be denied. Now, to save his soul, Miranda will enter a world of dark magic and darker intrigue. For only she can see the man hiding behind the mask.


9. Heart’s Blood by by Juliet Marillier

Whistling Tor is a place of secrets and mystery. Surrounded by a wooded hill, and unknown presences, the crumbling fortress is owned by a chieftain whose name is spoken throughout the district in tones of revulsion and bitterness. A curse lies over Anluan's family and his people; those woods hold a perilous force whose every whisper threatens doom.

For young scribe Caitrin it is a safe haven. This place where nobody else is prepared to go seems exactly what she needs, for Caitrin is fleeing her own demons. As Caitrin comes to know Anluan and his home in more depth she realizes that it is only through her love and determination that the curse can be broken and Anluan and his people set free.


10. Of Beast and Beauty by Stacey Jay

In the beginning was the darkness, and in the darkness was a girl, and in the girl was a secret...

In the domed city of Yuan, the blind Princess Isra, a Smooth Skin, is raised to be a human sacrifice whose death will ensure her city’s vitality. In the desert outside Yuan, Gem, a mutant beast, fights to save his people, the Monstrous, from starvation. Neither dreams that together, they could return balance to both their worlds.

Isra wants to help the city’s Banished people, second-class citizens despised for possessing Monstrous traits. But after she enlists the aid of her prisoner, Gem, who has been captured while trying to steal Yuan’s enchanted roses, she begins to care for him, and to question everything she has been brought up to believe.

As secrets are revealed and Isra’s sight, which vanished during her childhood, returned, Isra will have to choose between duty to her people and the beast she has come to love.


11. Rose Daughter by Robin McKinley

It is the heart of this place, and it is dying, says the Beast. And it is true; the center of the Beast's palace, the glittering glasshouse that brings Beauty both comfort and delight in her strange new environment, is filled with leafless brown rosebushes. But deep within this enchanted world, new life, at once subtle and strong, is about to awaken.


12. Spirited by by Nancy Holder

In May 1756 war is formally declared between the British and the French. During this highly dangerous time, Isabella Sevens is travelling with her father to the British stronghold Fort William Henry.

In the forest, Wusamequin, the young and handsome medicine man, looks to avenge the death of his wife and child at the hands of British soldiers. When Wusamequin spots Isabella and her father, he alerts his warriors to capture them. But Wusamequin is quite taken with how bravely Isabella battles. He orders the warriors to spare her and her father, and they are dragged back to their village. However, many members of the Mohican tribe still want them to be killed. In a desperate plea to Wusamequin, Isabella vows to stay as his hostage if he lets her father go.

Holder's colonial "captured-by-Indians" romance is an homage to "Last of the Mohicans" and a retelling of "Beauty and the Beast".


What Beauty and the Beast retellings do you recommend? Leave a comment and let me know! 

My Lady Jane Book Review + Free Printable

My Lady Jane by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows 

4.5/5 stars

491 pages

HarperTeen (June 7, 2016)

The Lady Janies (Brodi Ashton, Cynthia Hand, and Jodi Meadows) set out to tell the entirely (but not really) true story of Lady Jane Grey.

Before we get into The Lady Janies tale, let’s review what the history books tell us about Lady Jane.

At the age of sixteen, Jane is married off by her cousin King Edward VI to Lord Guildford Dudley, son of John Dudley, the Duke of Northumberland. Upon the king’s untimely death, Jane becomes Queen of England, due to Edward’s wishes in his will. Her reign is short lived, however. We’re taking nine days short! When Edward’s half-sister Mary, a.k.a Bloody Mary, overthrows Jane and crowns herself as queen, Lady Jane and her husband are locked away in The Tower of London and are later both beheaded.

Much of history remains the same in this new tale, expect for several significant details. Let’s focus on three main ones- without giving away any spoilers, of course.

1. The Edians

In the middle of the sixteenth century, people were blessed or cursed (depending on how you look at it) with the ability to transform between human and animal form. We’re talking full fledge animorphs. As you might imagine, some people found this ability to be rather magnificent while others were utterly appalled. Because the latter camp was largely in charge, the Edians were persecuted and hunted. That was until King Henry VIII discovered he could transform into a lion and decreed that Edians weren’t all that bad after all.

2. Gifford (call me G)

Jane’s betrothed Gifford is a horse. Every day at dawn he becomes a noble chestnut steed, but transforms at dusk back into his human form. The two must learn how to navigate being newly weds who can only spend half the day together as humans. You would think having to adjust to an arranged marriage would be challenging enough without the husband turning into a horse during the day aspect.

3. King Edward wants his first kiss

The King wants nothing more than to experience his first kiss. He is only fifteen after all and girls are so much more interesting than ruling and making decrees.

My Lady Jane is the first novel I can remember reading with more than one author. I was concerned if the writing styles of each author wouldn’t flow well together or if it would be obvious which author wrote which part. Totally not the case! The story is so fun and enjoyable, and extremely well written! The humor is fabulous. Too often I found myself laughing out loud! A dash of Princess Bride, a pinch of Monty Python, and a sprinkle of Shakespeare are all the ingredients in this comical retelling of Lady Jane Grey.

My favorite part of the novel is all things Jane. During her lifetime Jane was considered the most educated and well read lady of her time. It comes as no surprise the Lady Jane in our tale spends her days with her nose buried in books. She’s a true book lover through and through. Her #bookstagram feed would be royally sought after. The banter between Jane and G is not like the typical YA love drama. It was fun to see their relationship grow and change.

If you enjoy comical and fantastical tales with a bit of romance, or enjoy a good retelling of history then I recommend you check out My Lady Jane.

Long live The Lady Janies! May their pens continue to retell history as we only wish it could be!

This print is supplied from Whispering Words Design and is available for your personal use. You may not use this download for professional or commercial use. 

This print is supplied from Whispering Words Design and is available for your personal use. You may not use this download for professional or commercial use. 

8 Books to Read this 4th of July Weekend

There is much more to the Fourth of July weekend than parades, bar-b-ques, fireworks, swimming, camping, and parties. Over this long holiday weekend dive into one of these eight novels that sheds light on the shaping of our great nation. This list contains both fiction and nonfiction pieces of works that celebrate our heritage, illuminating both the good and the bad of what it took for us to gain our freedom.

1. Chains by Laurie Halse Anderson

As the Revolutionary War begins, thirteen-year-old Isabel wages her own fight...for freedom. Promised freedom upon the death of their owner, she and her sister, Ruth, in a cruel twist of fate become the property of a malicious New York City couple, the Locktons, who have no sympathy for the American Revolution and even less for Ruth and Isabel. When Isabel meets Curzon, a slave with ties to the Patriots, he encourages her to spy on her owners, who know details of British plans for invasion. She is reluctant at first, but when the unthinkable happens to Ruth, Isabel realizes her loyalty is available to the bidder who can provide her with freedom. 


2. Forge by Laurie Halse Anderson

In this compelling sequel to Chains, acclaimed author Laurie Halse Anderson shifts perspective from Isabel to Curzon and brings to the page the tale of what it takes for runaway slaves to forge their own paths in a world of obstacles—and in the midst of the American Revolution.

The Patriot Army was shaped and strengthened by the desperate circumstances of the Valley Forge winter. This is where Curzon the boy becomes Curzon the young man. In addition to the hardships of soldiering, he lives with the fear of discovery, for he is an escaped slave passing for free. And then there is Isabel, who is also at Valley Forge—against her will. She and Curzon have to sort out the tangled threads of their friendship while figuring out what stands between the two of them and true freedom.


3. Jefferson’s Sons by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley

Beverly, Harriet, Madison, and Eston are Thomas Jefferson's children by one of his slaves, Sally Hemings, and while they do get special treatment - better work, better shoes, even violin lessons - they are still slaves, and are never to mention who their father is. The lighter-skinned children have been promised a chance to escape into white society, but what does this mean for the children who look more like their mother? As each child grows up, their questions about slavery and freedom become tougher, calling into question the real meaning of "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness."

Told in three parts from the points of view of three of Jefferson's slaves - Beverly, Madison, and a third boy close to the Hemings family - these engaging and poignant voices shed light on what life was like as one of Jefferson's invisible offspring.


4. Sophia’s War by Avi

In 1776, young Sophia Calderwood witnesses the execution of Nathan Hale in New York City, which is newly occupied by the British army. Sophia is horrified by the event and resolves to do all she can to help the American cause. Recruited as a spy, she becomes a maid in the home of General Clinton, the supreme commander of the British forces in America. Through her work she becomes aware that someone in the American army might be switching sides, and she uncovers a plot that will grievously damage the Americans if it succeeds. But the identity of the would-be traitor is so shocking that no one believes her, and so Sophia decides to stop the treacherous plot herself, at great personal peril: She’s young, she’s a girl, and she’s running out of time. And if she fails, she’s facing an execution of her own.


5. Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow

Ron Chernow tells the riveting story of a man who overcame all odds to shape, inspire, and scandalize the newborn America. According to historian Joseph Ellis, Alexander Hamiltonis “a robust full-length portrait, in my view the best ever written, of the most brilliant, charismatic and dangerous founder of them all.”

Few figures in American history have been more hotly debated or more grossly misunderstood than Alexander Hamilton. Chernow’s biography gives Hamilton his due and sets the record straight, deftly illustrating that the political and economic greatness of today’s America is the result of Hamilton’s countless sacrifices to champion ideas that were often wildly disputed during his time. “To repudiate his legacy,” Chernow writes, “is, in many ways, to repudiate the modern world.” Chernow here recounts Hamilton’s turbulent life: an illegitimate, largely self-taught orphan from the Caribbean, he came out of nowhere to take America by storm, rising to become George Washington’s aide-de-camp in the Continental Army, coauthoring The Federalist Papers, founding the Bank of New York, leading the Federalist Party, and becoming the first Treasury Secretary of the United States.

Historians have long told the story of America’s birth as the triumph of Jefferson’s democratic ideals over the aristocratic intentions of Hamilton. Chernow presents an entirely different man, whose legendary ambitions were motivated not merely by self-interest but by passionate patriotism and a stubborn will to build the foundations of American prosperity and power. His is a Hamilton far more human than we’ve encountered before—from his shame about his birth to his fiery aspirations, from his intimate relationships with childhood friends to his titanic feuds with Jefferson, Madison, Adams, Monroe, and Burr, and from his highly public affair with Maria Reynolds to his loving marriage to his loyal wife Eliza. And never before has there been a more vivid account of Hamilton’s famous and mysterious death in a duel with Aaron Burr in July of 1804.

Chernow’s biography is not just a portrait of Hamilton, but the story of America’s birth seen through its most central figure. At a critical time to look back to our roots, Alexander Hamilton will remind readers of the purpose of our institutions and our heritage as Americans.


6. 1776 by David McCullough

In this masterful book, David McCullough tells the intensely human story of those who marched with General George Washington in the year of the Declaration of Independence - when the whole American cause was riding on their success, without which all hope for independence would have been dashed and the noble ideals of the Declaration would have amounted to little more than words on paper.

Based on extensive research in both American and British archives, 1776 is a powerful drama written with extraordinary narrative vitality. It is the story of Americans in the ranks, men of every shape, size, and color, farmers, schoolteachers, shoemakers, no-accounts, and mere boys turned soldiers. And it is the story of the King's men, the British commander, William Howe, an his highly disciplined redcoats who looked on their rebel foes with contempt and fought with a valor too little known.

At the center of the drama, with Washington, are two young American patriots, who, at first, knew no more of war than what they had read in books - Nathaniel Green, a Quaker who was made a general at thirty-three, and Henry Knox, a twenty-five-year-old bookseller who had the preposterous idea of hauling the guns of Fort Ticonderoga overland to Boston in the dead of Winter.

But it is the American commander-in-chief who stands foremost - Washington, who had never before led an army in battle. Written as a companion work to his celebrated biography of John Adams, David McCullough's 1776 is another landmark in the literature of American history.


7. Founding Mothers by Cokie Roberts 

Founding Mothers, an intimate and illuminating look at the fervently patriotic and passionate women whose tireless pursuits on behalf of their families–and their country–proved just as crucial to the forging of a new nation as the rebellion that established it.

While much has been written about the men who signed the Declaration of Independence, battled the British, and framed the Constitution, the wives, mothers, sisters and daughters they left behind have been little noticed by history. #1 New York Timesbestselling author Cokie Roberts brings us women who fought the Revolution as valiantly as the men, often defending their very doorsteps. Drawing upon personal correspondence, private journals, and even favoured recipes, Roberts reveals the often surprising stories of these fascinating women, bringing to life the everyday trials and extraordinary triumphs of individuals like Abigail Adams, Mercy Otis Warren, Deborah Read Franklin, Eliza Pinckney, Catherine Littlefield Green, Esther DeBerdt Reed and Martha Washington–proving that without our exemplary women, the new country might have never survived.


8. Washington: A Life by Ron Chernow

In Washington: A Life biographer Ron Chernow provides a richly nuanced portrait of the father of our nation. With a breadth & depth matched by no other one-volume life, this crisply paced narrative carries readers thru his troubled boyhood, his precocious feats in the French & Indian War, his creation of Mt Vernon, his heroic exploits with the Continental Army, his presiding over the Constitutional Convention & his performance as the 1st president.

Despite the reverence his name inspires, Washington remains a lifeless waxwork for many, worthy but dull. A laconic man of granite self-control, he often arouses more respect than affection. This work, based on massive research, dashes the stereotype of a stolid, unemotional man. A strapping 6', Washington was a celebrated horseman, elegant dancer & tireless hunter, with a fiercely guarded emotional life. Chernow brings to vivid life a dashing, passionate man of fiery opinions & many moods. Probing his private life, he explores his fraught relationship with his crusty mother, his youthful infatuation with the married Sally Fairfax & his often conflicted feelings toward his adopted children & grandchildren.

He also provides a portrait of his marriage to Martha & his complex behavior as a slave master. At the same time this is an astute portrait of a canny politician who knew how to inspire people. Not only did Washington gather around himself the foremost figures of the age, including Madison, Hamilton, Adams & Jefferson, but he also orchestrated their actions to shape the new federal government, define the separation of powers & establish the office of the presidency. This biography takes us on a page-turning journey thru the formative events of America's founding. With a dramatic sweep worthy of its subject, this is a magisterial work from an elegant storyteller.

Booked Review

Booked by Kwame Alexander

5/5 stars

314 pages

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (April 5, 2016)

This novel in verse story follows the life of twelve-year-old Nick Hall, a dedicated soccer star and word wizard.

Nick eats, sleeps, and dreams soccer. So does his best friend Coby. Nick and Coby are as tight as a pair of shin guards despite being on rival soccer teams. Dean and Don, the school bullies, are real mean dogs, and Nick and Coby must deal with their constant ridicule.

Nick’s dad is a linguistics professor with a bad case of verbomania, a crazed obsession for words, which is evidenced by the fact that he wrote his own dictionary called Weird and Wonderful words. Whether he wants to admit it or not, Nick has become quite the word wizard himself. Being forced to read his father’s dictionary may have played a part in his ability to spout off weird and wonderful words.

Former rapper turned librarian, Mr. Mac is the coolest adult at school. Always sporting a witty literary shirt like Irony: the opposite of wrinkly and colorful converse, Nick looks up to him for all types of advice.

Nick is at the top of his game. He’s the star soccer player on his team. He’s getting ready to ask April to be his girlfriend. He’s crushing it in school. But his world is quickly turned upside down when his parents make a bombshell of an announcement. Disappointment rains down on Nick. Will he have what it takes to overcome it all and be a star again?

There are so many things I like about this novel. My top three would be the weird and wonderful words, all things Mr. Mac, and Alexander’s writing style.

Throughout the pages of this novel are weird and wonderful words that many readers might not know. Similar to his father’s dictionary, Nick provides footnotes to the meaning of each of the words. Some of my favorite include malapropism, ragabash, and onomatophobia.

Mr. Mac is my favorite character. He is a passionate librarian who loves getting kids to read new books. He has a great sense of humor, and I absolutely love all his literary puns. Although he is a funny guy, he also possess a lot of wisdom. One of the best pieces of advice he gives to Nick is, You get one chance to love, to be loved. If you’re lucky, maybe two.

Booked is a real ace of a story. Each poem flows from one page to the next. You’re sucked in from the very first page. One of my favorite parts is when the author adapts Langston Hughes’s poem “A Dream Deferred,” which happens to be one of my favorite poems.

What Happens to a Dream Destroyed?

Does it sink
like a wrecked ship in the sea?

Or wade in the water
like a boy overboard?

Maybe it just floats
around and around…

Or does it drown?

I found this story to be captivating, and I plan on using it as a read aloud next year with my students. Although it is fiction, this story addresses many real and important topics such as heartache, bullies, friendship, family, love.

If you’re looking for something action-packed and emotional, or just a good quick read, give this one a try.

Summer Reading List for Middle Schoolers + Free Reading Log

Just because school is on summer break does not mean that learning should go on break too. Reading is one of the best ways to learn and explore new concepts, ideas, and worlds. Whether it be fiction or non-fiction, books have the power to expand your horizon. Spend some time this summer with your nose buried in a good book or two.

This list of 20 books published in 2016 offers a large range of genres and cultures. Read through the Goodreads descriptions below to select some to read. Bookmark this list to come back to and view when you need another book to read. You can also record your summer reading with the FREE reading log at the end of the post. Be sure to come back and comment to share your thoughts on each book you read.

1. The Ballad of a Broken Nose by Arne Svingen, Translated by Kari Dickson

Bart is an eternal optimist. At thirteen years old, he’s had a hard life. But Bart knows that things won’t get any better if you have a negative attitude. His mother has pushed him into boxing lessons so that Bart can protect himself, but Bart already has defense mechanisms: he is relentlessly positive…and he loves opera.

Listening to—and singing—opera is Bart’s greatest escape, but he’s too shy to share this with anyone. Then popular Ada befriends him and encourages him to perform at the school talent show. Ada can’t keep a secret to save her life, but Bart bonds with her anyway, and her openness helps him realize that his troubles are not burdens that he must bear alone.

The Ballad of a Broken Nose is a sweet story about bravery, fear, bullying, sports, and music. But most of all it is about the important days of your life, days when everything seems to happen at once and nothing ever will be the same again.


2. The Bitter Side of Sweet by Tara Sullivan

Two young boys must escape a life of slavery in modern-day Ivory Coast

Fifteen-year-old Amadou counts the things that matter. For two years what has mattered are the number of cacao pods he and his younger brother, Seydou, can chop down in a day. This number is very important. The higher the number the safer they are because the bosses won’t beat them. The higher the number the closer they are to paying off their debt and returning home to Baba and Auntie. Maybe. The problem is Amadou doesn’t know how much he and Seydou owe, and the bosses won’t tell him. The boys only wanted to make some money during the dry season to help their impoverished family. Instead they were tricked into forced labor on a plantation in the Ivory Coast; they spend day after day living on little food and harvesting beans in the hot sun—dangerous, backbreaking work. With no hope of escape, all they can do is try their best to stay alive—until Khadija comes into their lives.

She’s the first girl who’s ever come to camp, and she’s a wild thing. She fights bravely every day, attempting escape again and again, reminding Amadou what it means to be free. But finally, the bosses break her, and what happens next to the brother he has always tried to protect almost breaks Amadou. The old impulse to run is suddenly awakened. The three band together as family and try just once more to escape.


3. Booked by Kwame Alexander

Like lightning/you strike/fast and free/legs zoom/down field/eyes fixed/on the checkered ball/on the goal/ten yards to go/can’t nobody stop you/ can’t nobody cop you…

In this follow-up to the Newbery-winning novel THE CROSSOVER,  soccer, family, love, and friendship, take center stage as twelve-year-old Nick learns the power of words as he wrestles with problems at home, stands up to a bully, and tries to impress the girl of his dreams. Helping him along are his best friend and sometimes teammate Coby, and The Mac, a rapping librarian who gives Nick inspiring books to read.  

This electric and heartfelt novel-in-verse by poet Kwame Alexander bends and breaks as it captures all the thrills and setbacks, action and emotion of a World Cup match!


4. Hour of the Bees by Lindsay Edgar

Things are only impossible if you stop to think about them. . . .

While her friends are spending their summers having pool parties and sleepovers, twelve-year-old Carolina — Carol — is spending hers in the middle of the New Mexico desert, helping her parents move the grandfather she’s never met into a home for people with dementia. At first, Carol avoids prickly Grandpa Serge. But as the summer wears on and the heat bears down, Carol finds herself drawn to him, fascinated by the crazy stories he tells her about a healing tree, a green-glass lake, and the bees that will bring back the rain and end a hundred years of drought. As the thin line between magic and reality starts to blur, Carol must decide for herself what is possible — and what it means to be true to her roots. Readers who dream that there’s something more out there will be enchanted by this captivating novel of family, renewal, and discovering the wonder of the world.


5. How it Feels to Fly by Kathryn Holmes

For as long as Samantha can remember, she’s wanted to be a professional ballerina. She’s lived for perfect pirouettes, sky-high extensions, and soaring leaps across the stage. Then her body betrayed her.

The change was gradual. Stealthy.

Failed diets. Disapproving looks. Whispers behind her back. The result: crippling anxiety about her appearance, which threatens to crush her dancing dreams entirely. On her dance teacher’s recommendation, Sam is sent to a summer treatment camp for teen artists and athletes who are struggling with mental and emotional obstacles. If she can make progress, she’ll be allowed to attend a crucial ballet intensive. But when asked to open up about her deepest insecurities, secret behaviors, and paralyzing fears to complete strangers, Sam can’t cope.    

What I really need is a whole new body.

Sam forms an unlikely bond with Andrew, a former college football player who’s one of her camp counselors. As they grow closer, Andrew helps Sam see herself as he does—beautiful. But just as she starts to believe that there’s more between them than friendship, disappointing news from home sends her into a tailspin. With her future uncertain and her body against her, will Sam give in to the anxiety that imprisons her?


6. The Kidnap Plot by Dave Butler 

Meet Charlie. He lives a quiet life with his protective father, an inventor and clockmaker.

When Charlie s father is suddenly and mysteriously kidnapped by a shadowy group called the Anti-Human League, it s up to Charlie to save him. Before long, he has assembled a motley crew to help. From the terrifying but well-meaning troll Grim Grumblesson to the high-flying young aeronauts Bob and Sir Oliver, this team will follow the trail anywhere.

But the league s plan is much more sinister than Charlie could have imagined. And as he unravels the secrets of the league, he also uncovers his father s own secrets about his family, the league, and even himself...

Can Charlie and his gang rescue his father from the dastardly villains who have kidnapped him? And will Charlie be able to come to terms with who he really is? The journey begins here!"


7. Lucky Few by Kathryn Ormsbee

Stevie, Max, and Sanger: keeping Austin weird.

Stevie Hart is homeschooled, but don’t hold that against her. Sure, she and her best (okay, only) friend, Sanger, will never be prom queens, but that’s just because the Central Austin Homeschool Cooperative doesn’t believe in proms. Or dancing. Still, Stevie and Sanger know how to create their own brand of fun.

Enter Max Garza, the new boy next door. After a near-fatal accident, Max is determined to defy mortality with a checklist: 23 Ways to Fake My Death Without Dying. Dead set on carrying out fabricated demises ranging from impalement to spontaneous combustion, Max charms Stevie and Sanger into helping him with this two-month macabre mission. But as Stevie finds herself falling for Max, it becomes increasingly difficult to draw a line between his make-believe deaths and her real life


8. Me and Miranda Mullaly by Jake Gerhardt 

The fates of three 8th grade boys converge in biology class one day, as each falls desperately in love with the same girl. There's Sam, the class clown; Duke, the intellectual; and Chollie, the athlete. And the object of their collective affection? The enigmatic Miranda Mullaly—the girl who smiles like she means it, the girl who makes Christmas truly magic when she sings, the girl who…barely realizes her admirers exist!

But nothing will stop the guys from doing everything they can to GET THE GIRL, not even their inevitable confrontation.

Told in alternating perspectives, Me and Miranda Mullaly is a comedy of errors where small misunderstandings lead to big laughs. And beneath the humor, every attempt to win Miranda becomes a compelling look at the larger world of each guy's life.


9. Most Dangerous: Daniel Ellsberg and the Secret History of the Vietnam War by Steve Sheinkin

From Steve Sheinkin, the award-winning author of The Port Chicago 50 and Bomb comes a tense, exciting exploration of what the Times deemed "the greatest story of the century": how Daniel Ellsberg transformed from obscure government analyst into "the most dangerous man in America," and risked everything to expose the government's deceit.

On June 13, 1971, the front page of the New York Times announced the existence of a 7,000-page collection of documents containing a secret history of the Vietnam War. Known as The Pentagon Papers, these documents had been comissioned by Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara. Chronicling every action the government had taken in the Vietnam War, they revealed a pattern of deception spanning over twenty years and four presidencies, and forever changed the relationship between American citizens and the politicans claiming to represent their interests. A provocative book that interrogates the meanings of patriotism, freedom, and integrity, Most Dangerous further establishes Steve Sheinkin as a leader in children's nonfiction.


10. My Lady Jane by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows

The comical, fantastical, romantical, (not) entirely true story of Lady Jane Grey. In My Lady Jane, coauthors Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows have created a one-of-a-kind fantasy in the tradition of The Princess Bride, featuring a reluctant king, an even more reluctant queen, a noble steed, and only a passing resemblance to actual history—because sometimes history needs a little help.

At sixteen, Lady Jane Grey is about to be married off to a stranger and caught up in a conspiracy to rob her cousin, King Edward, of his throne. But those trifling problems aren’t for Jane to worry about. Jane gets to be Queen of England.


11. The Night Parade by Kathryn Tanquary

The last thing Saki Yamamoto wants to do for her summer vacation is trade in exciting Tokyo for the antiquated rituals and bad cell reception of her grandmother's village. Preparing for the Obon ceremony is boring. Then the local kids take an interest in Saki and she sees an opportunity for some fun, even if it means disrespecting her family's ancestral shrine on a malicious dare.

But as Saki rings the sacred bell, the darkness shifts. A death curse has been invoked... and Saki has three nights to undo it. With the help of three spirit guides and some unexpected friends, Saki must prove her worth - or say good-bye to the world of the living forever.


12. Paper Wishes by Lois Sepahban

A moving debut novel about a girl whose family is relocated to a Japanese internment camp during World War II--and the dog she has to leave behind.

Ten-year-old Manami did not realize how peaceful her family's life on Bainbridge Island was until the day it all changed. It's 1942, after the attack on Pearl Harbor, and Manami and her family are Japanese American, which means that the government says they must leave their home by the sea and join other Japanese Americans at a prison camp in the desert. Manami is sad to go, but even worse is that they are going to have to give her dog, Yujiin, to a neighbor to take care of. Manami decides to sneak Yujiin under her coat, but she is caught and forced to abandon him. She is devastated but clings to the hope that somehow Yujiin will find his way to the camp and make her family whole again. It isn't until she finds a way to let go of her guilt that Manami can accept all that has happened to her family.


13.  Pax by Sara Pennypacker

Pax was only a kit when his family was killed, and “his boy” Peter rescued him from abandonment and certain death. Now the war front approaches, and when Peter’s father enlists, Peter has to move in with his grandpa. Far worse than being forced to leave home is the fact that Pax can’t go. Peter listens to his stern father—as he usually does—and throws Pax’s favorite toy soldier into the woods. When the fox runs to retrieve it, Peter and his dad get back in the car and leave him there—alone. But before Peter makes it through even one night under his grandfather’s roof, regret and duty spur him to action; he packs for a trek to get his best friend back and sneaks into the night. This is the story of Peter, Pax, and their independent struggles to return to one another against all odds. Told from the alternating viewpoints of Peter and Pax.


14. Raymie Nightingale by Kate DiCamillo

Raymie Clarke has come to realize that everything, absolutely everything, depends on her. And she has a plan. If Raymie can win the Little Miss Central Florida Tire competition, then her father, who left town two days ago with a dental hygienist, will see Raymie's picture in the paper and (maybe) come home. To win, not only does Raymie have to do good deeds and learn how to twirl a baton; she also has to contend with the wispy, frequently fainting Louisiana Elefante, who has a show-business background, and the fiery, stubborn Beverly Tapinski, who’s determined to sabotage the contest. But as the competition approaches, loneliness, loss, and unanswerable questions draw the three girls into an unlikely friendship — and challenge each of them to come to the rescue in unexpected ways.


15. Salt to Sea by Ruta Sepetys

Winter, 1945. Four teenagers. Four secrets.

Each one born of a different homeland; each one hunted, and haunted, by tragedy, lies…and war.

As thousands of desperate refugees flock to the coast in the midst of a Soviet advance, four paths converge, vying for passage aboard the Wilhelm Gustloff, a ship that promises safety and freedom.

Yet not all promises can be kept.

Inspired by the single greatest tragedy in maritime history, bestselling and award-winning author Ruta Sepetys (Between Shades of Gray) lifts the veil on a shockingly little-known casualty of World War II. An illuminating and life-affirming tale of heart and hope.


16. Some Kind of Courage by Dan Gemeinhart

Saddle up for a life-defining, death-defying adventure.

Joseph Johnson has lost just about everyone he's ever loved. He lost his pa in an accident. He lost his ma and his little sister to sickness. And now, he's lost his pony--fast, fierce, beautiful Sarah, taken away by a man who had no right to take her.

Joseph can sure enough get her back, though. The odds are stacked against him, but he isn't about to give up. He will face down deadly animals, dangerous men, and the fury of nature itself on his quest to be reunited with the only family he has left.

Because Joseph Johnson may have lost just about everything; but he hasn't lost hope. And he hasn't lost the fire in his belly that says he's getting his Sarah back--no matter what.


17. The Hidden Oracle (The Trials of Apollo #1) by Rick Riordan

How do you punish an immortal?

By making him human.

After angering his father Zeus, the god Apollo is cast down from Olympus. Weak and disorientated, he lands in New York City as a regular teenage boy. Now, without his godly powers, the four-thousand-year-old deity must learn to survive in the modern world until he can somehow find a way to regain Zeus's favour.

But Apollo has many enemies - gods, monsters and mortals who would love to see the former Olympian permanently destroyed. Apollo needs help, and he can think of only one place to go . . . an enclave of modern demigods known as Camp Half-Blood.


18. Wild Robot by Peter Brown

When robot Roz opens her eyes for the first time, she discovers that she is alone on a remote, wild island.

Why is she there? Where did she come from? And, most important, how will she survive in her harsh surroundings?

Roz's only hope is to learn from the island's hostile animal inhabitants. When she tries to care for an orphaned gosling, the other animals finally decide to help, and the island starts to feel like home. Until one day, the robot's mysterious past comes back to haunt her....


19. Wolf Hollow by Lauren Wolk

Growing up in the shadows cast by two world wars, Annabelle has lived a mostly quiet, steady life in her small Pennsylvania town. Until the day new student Betty Glengarry walks into her class.

Betty quickly reveals herself to be cruel and manipulative, and while her bullying seems isolated at first, things quickly escalate, and reclusive World War I veteran Toby becomes a target of her attacks. While others have always seen Toby’s strangeness, Annabelle knows only kindness. She will soon need to find the courage to stand as a lone voice of justice as tensions mount.

 


20. The Wolf’s Boy by Susan Williams Beckhorn

An outcast boy and a young wolf have only each other against an Ice Age winter . . .

Kai burns to become a hunter and to earn a rightful place among his people. But that can never be. He was born with a club foot. It is forbidden for him to use or even touch a hunter’s sacred weapons.

Cut off from the other boys, Kai turns to his true friends, the yellow wolves, for companionship. They have not forgotten the young human they nurtured as an abandoned infant. When Kai discovers a motherless cub in the pack, he risks everything to save her, bringing her back to live with him.

But as winter draws near, Kai’s wolf grows ever more threatening in the eyes of the People. When the worst happens, Kai knows that they must leave for good. Together, they embark on a journey into the north—a place of unimaginable danger—that tests the power of friendship and the will to survive.

Award-winning author Susan Williams Beckhorn delivers a tale set in Paleolithic times. Inspired by modern discoveries, Susan’s careful research creates a vivid picture of a time when the first wolves came to live with humans and forged a bond that lives on to this day.


WhisperingWordsDesign Reading Log