Tween series fiction

All posts in the Tween series fiction category

The Land of Stories, by Chris Colfer

Published December 14, 2014 by Dagmar

My niece is a big reader.  One of my favorite things to do is to talk about books with her.  The Land of Stories might be the most enthusiastic recommendation she’s ever made to me.  She went on Land of Storiesabout how much she loved the book, and she was so excited that there were sequels to the story.  A few weeks later I was in a hotel in San Francisco, when I overheard a girl, about the same age as Emma, telling her grandmother about a great book she was reading.  She was so enthusiastic that I couldn’t help interrupting and asking her what book she was talking about.  You’ve got it. It was The Land of Stories.

I ordered the book for my kindle the next night and began reading the book.  I see what they saw in the book.  The Land of Stories falls in the fairy tale fantasy genre for middle readers.  There have been a lot of these books published lately.  Luckily, they are not cookie cutter.  Each is clever and has its own merits.  My particular favorites are this book, A Tale Dark and Grimm, A Hero’s Guide to Saving the Kingdom and Rump.  I’m terribly behind on reading the Sisters Grimm (incredibly behind, really, given that the series now has 9 books) but plan to read that book as well.  After reading it, I put it on my 4th and 5th Grade Fiction Book Club list.  My students raved about this book as well.

The Land of Stories is terrific.  Two great characters go on a quest – but not just any quest. This quest combines humor, mystery, adventure and lots of familiar fairy tale characters who are probably quite a bit different than you might remember.

The Land of Stories: The Wishing Spell pulls you right in.  It  begins as Queen Snow White enters a dark dungeon to speak with her step-mother, the Evil Queen.  Snow White begs the former queen to tell her why she never loved Snow White.  The Evil Queen tells Snow White that “a villain is just a victim whose story hasn’t been told.”

The book then turns to two characters, Alex and Conner Bailey, 12 year old twins who live with their mother.  They live in a small house, having had to sell their old house after their father passes away in a car accident.  Life is difficult for the twins.  Their mother, trying to pay the bills, has to work double shifts as a nurse.  They rarely see their mother, and Conner is struggling in school.  Their grandmother is a light in their life.  When she arrives for the twins’ birthday, she leaves them with her most prized possession, an old story book called, The Land of Stories.

The old story book turns out to be more than just a book of stories.  It vibrates and hums.  It keeps Alex, normally a top student, up at night.  While not many people would think to try to drop a book into the pages of a humming storybook, Alex is just the kind of kid that does.  She drops in several books and a pencil and then, a little predictably, is sucked into the book herself.  Her twin, Conner, horrified as he watches her disappear, jumps right in after his sister.  What do you do when you fall into a book?  You meet a magical creature – not a faun, as might happen if you’ve fallen through the back of a wardrobe – but a big frog who offers you tea with flies (if you like).  The only way to leave the enchanted land?  Fulfill the requirements of the Wishing Spell.

I don’t want to give away too much, because this book is truly worth your time.  You’ll learn the truth about Goldilocks (a villain on the run), Little Red Riding Hood, Jack in the Beanstalk and that Evil Queen and whether she actually is a victim. You’ll also learn whether Alex and Conner ever find their way home.

Honestly, it would not surprise me if this book won an award.  Please don’t miss this wonderful book.  I’m launching a fantasy book club, and my students have already asked me to put book two of this series on the list.  Hmmm.  They might have to just borrow that book from my library shelves – so many more great fantasy books and series to explore!

4th and 5th grade fiction book club

Published December 12, 2014 by Dagmar

We just wrapped our 4th and 5th grade fiction book club last week.  Last school year, I hosted a California Young Readers’ Medal book club.  I loved seeing our best readers bond as a group.  When I say these students are our best clients, I’m serious.  These kids really read.

outofmymindI chose five books for my students.  I started with these books: Al Capone Does My Shirts,  by Gennifer Choldenko; The Land of Stories: The Wishing Spell, by Chris Colfer; The Graveyard Book, by Neil Gaiman; Out of My Mind, by Sharon Draper; and What We Found Al Capone Doesin the Sofa and How it Saved the World, by Henry Clark.  I chose The Land of Stories, because my niece, a fifth grader, told me the Land of Stories was one of the best books she’d read.  I loved it, myself.

Not only did most of my students finish all five of the books I chose, they added books to my list and managed to finish most of those books, too – all while checking out library books to read each week.  Wow.

HLand of Storiesere’s what my students added to our reading list: A Stone in My Hand, by Cathryn Clinton; Elijah of Buxton, by Christopher Paul Curtis; Island of Blue Dolphins, by Scott O’Dell; Almost Home, by Joan Bauer.  Great choices.  I loved every one of these books myself.

At our party, I polled all my students on their favorite books.  Out of My Mind won by a mile.  My niece Face Timed me last week to tell me that she’d just read another great book…Out of My Mind. 🙂  I wish she could join my book club!

Look for reviews of these books soon.

The Golden Compass, by Philip Pullman

Published December 9, 2014 by Dagmar

goldencompassI’ve had The Golden Compass on my school library shelf for three years.  I’ve wanted to read it and never had the opportunity.  With so many students all eager for fiction recommendations, my reading list can be long and scattered – science fiction, mysteries, fantasy, realistic fiction.  I’m often reading several books at one time.  One or my fourth grade students simply tore through this series this fall.  I’m grateful to her for putting this book and series back on my radar.  The beginning of this book really grabbed my attention.  I didn’t stop reading until I’d finished the book.

The Golden Compass is the first book in the “His Dark Materials” series (The Golden Compass, The Subtle Knife and the Amber Spyglass).  Lyra is the main character.  Her world resembles the current world with recognizable countries and geography.   Every human being has a daemon, an animal that acts as an expression of each person’s soul, and is their closest friend.  Daemons change form as a child grows and eventually settle into one animal form when the child becomes an adult.  Lyra is being raised by the Scholars at Jordan College.  Lord Ariel, her uncle, visits Lyra occasionally, but she is largely left to her own devices.  She spends most of her time with her best friend, Roger, a kitchen boy. Together, they get into a lot of mischief, battling with other children, climbing onto the roof of the College and discovering all that tunnels and rooms that lie beneath the College.

The story begins as Lyra, a girl, and her daemon, Pantalaimon hide in a wardrobe in the Retiring Room at Jordan College.  Hidden, she sees the Master of the College walk into the room and put poison in the wine glass of the visiting Lord Asriel, who is soon to arrive. Lord Asriel enters the Retiring Room only to catch Lyra, hiding in the wardrobe.  Lyra tells him of the poisoned wine. Grateful to know about the plot to kill him, Lord Asriel allows her to crawl back in the wardrobe so that she can see the slideshow he is presenting to Scholars at Jordan College.  The slideshow shows the Aurora in the North and an image of a city in the sky.  Lord Asriel speaks to the group of Scholars about a mysterious substance called “dust”.  Lyra is fascinated by the images Lord Asriel has shown the group.  She is curious about everything she has heard and wants to visit the North to learn more about “dust” and the City in the sky.

From that day forward, Lyra’s life changes completely.  She and Roger begin to hear rumors that children are being stolen from Oxford and surrounding areas.  Then, Roger is abducted.  Lyra also learns that Lord Asriel is being held prisoner in the North. Then, the Master of the College tells Lyra that she must leave Jordan College and go live with Mrs. Coulter, a beautiful and charming, but mysterious, woman.  Before she leaves the College, the Master gives her a strange device called an alethiometer, that looks like a compass.  She is told to keep it safe from others.

Lyra soon finds out that she has a special gift that allows her to “read” the alethiometer.  She learns more about her family and the evil that exists in her world.  She is forced to run away from Mrs. Coulter’s house and is found and protected by Gyptians, a nomadic people who move from place to place on their boats.  Together with the Gyptians and an armored bear called Iorek Byrnison, Lyra heads north to free her friend Roger, the other lost children and Lord Asriel.

This is a fast-paced book’s unfolding mystery will hold you in suspense until the final pages.  There are truly evil characters and smart, loyal characters that you’ll come to love.  Lyra is brave and determined to fight the evil she sees.

I highly recommend this book to fourth grade-middle school readers who love mystery and fantasy.

The Unwanteds, by Lisa McCann

Published May 10, 2014 by Dagmar

theunwantedsMy students really loved The Unwanteds.  In fact, 28 students of mine from 3rd-5th grade read this and two other books for the 2014 California Young Readers’ Medal, a Medal awarded to the book that receives the most votes in a category from students throughout the state.  The Unwanteds was the winner at our school and in the state.

When children in Quill turn 13, they wait to hear their judgement.  Will they be Wanted, Necessary or Unwanted?  Wanteds are the strongest in society and train to defend Quill from those outside.  Necessarys provide the services needed by Wanteds.  And the Unwanteds?  Each year, the Unwanteds of Quill disappeear forever.

Expecting to be put to death, the Unwanteds actually enter a magical world very different from the decrepit and bleak world of Quill.  Artime is a beautiful world full of color, where creativity is revered.  Magical spells and creatures keep Artime safe from those in Quill who would destroy it, but those magic spells are wearing thin.  Now, the residents of Artime must learn to use their talents to prepare for battle to save their world.

Will Artime survive?  Read and find out.  This series has captivated my students who are now reading the other two books in the series.  I couldn’t put the book down myself.

 

The Name of this Book is Secret, by Pseudonymous Bosch

Published January 14, 2014 by Dagmar

the name of this bookHere’s a mystery that has never failed to please my students.  It’s not only a good mystery, it’s funny, quirky, a little dark, has an adventurous main character with a loyal and helpful friend.  Best of all, it leaves readers wanting more.  (Luckily, there are five books in this series.)

This book begins with the words, “WARNING: DO NOT READ BEYOND THIS PAGE!’  Even the only slightly curious would want to turn the page.  And, being more than slightly curious, I did turn the page, only to read the words, “Good.  Now I know I can trust you.  You’re curious.  You’re brave.  And you’re not afraid to lead a life of crime.”  🙂  The first chapter consists of all “x’s”.  Yes, there are no words; because, of course, the first chapter would have revealed the names of the characters, the place where the story takes place and the dates.  All those things are, well, secret.

I can tell you this: The main character’s name is Cassandra, and she is a survivalist.  She goes no where without her backpack of survival gear.  She lives alone with her mother and often visits her mom’s friends, Grandpa Larry and Grandpa Wayne.  Cass discovers a box called the “Symphony of Secrets”, learns that it came from the house of a dead magician.  She and her new friend, a boy named Max-Ernest, believe that the magician is actually alive and crying out for help.  This, coupled with the disappearance of a strange boy from school lead them on a chase to save the magician and the missing boy.

I read this book to my son years ago, and we absolutely loved it.  Since then, I’ve recommended it to countless students who never fail to come back to get book number two, If You’re Reading This, It’s Too Late.  Don’t miss this great book!

The Shadows: The Books of Elsewhere #1, by Jacqueline West

Published May 31, 2013 by Dagmar

the-shadows-by-jacqueline-west The Shadows is the first book in the Books of Elsewhere series.  I love a mystery, and I couldn’t put this book down. My students can’t stop reading at the first book.  They go on and read the next two books in the series.  Wait until I tell them book 4 is coming out soon!

Olive Dunwoody and her parents move into the McMartin house after Ms. McMartin passes away.  Their new house comes with all the McMartin’s possessions.  There are lots of interesting pieces of furniture and paintings on the wall. When Olive and her parents try to move a painting, they find all the paintings in the house are stuck to the walls.  Olive’s parents leave Olive to her own devices, a lot.  Olive is a curious girl.  She uses her free time to roam around the house.  Inside one drawer, Olive finds spectacles. She discovers that when she wears the spectacles, she can see people in the paintings move.  Olive also learns that she can enter and leave each painting in the house.  Olive meets people in the paintings.  One of the people she meets is a little boy, Morton, who is desperately afraid of a man he says put him in the painting.  Olive is determined to solve the mystery of people in the paintings and to discover the secrets of McMartin family and their home.  But, it is said that “curiosity killed the cat.”  Will Olive survive her search for the truth about the paintings?

Recommended for tween readers who love a good, exciting mystery.

Big Nate: In a Class by Himself, by Lincoln Peirce

Published May 28, 2013 by Dagmar

Big nate 4The first of the Big Nate series, my students recommended that I read this book. I’m glad I did! It’s perfect for fans of the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series. Like the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series, it’s funny and is a blend of graphic novel and text.  This series is really popular with boys from 4th-6th grade who are always lobbying for me to get more books in the series…anything to keep them reading!

Big Nate (COMIX!) is also now a graphic novel series, so Big Nate flies off the shelves in my fiction and my graphic novel sections.  Highly recommended for tween boy readers who like to laugh.