Alternately funny and can't-put-the-book-down adventure, Kevin Sands creates a compelling historical fiction world where apothecaries are murdered as they search for the Blackthorn key. Christopher Rowe, an apothecary's apprentice who is know for the "stupidest idea in the universe", must solve the riddles & codes left behind in order to find the key before the killers do. The insertion of the riddles and codes into the story contribute to a fast-paced and very satisfying adventure for the readers. Ten to fourteen. Ruth Compton
The audiobook version of this nominated title is an especially wonderful listening experience. Narrator Heather Alicia Simms brings the characters to life with her voice intonations and dramatic timing. What makes this audio stand out is the narrator's singing of religious hymns and other spirituals. Alicia Blowers. Audio
It's 1853 and Japan does not allow outsiders to enter the country. Even still, American boats have arrived in Edo Bay. Two young boys, Yoshi and Jack, are from very different cultures but they are still just regular boys seeking adventure and friendship. They are going to need each others help to outwit samurais and spies. Fans of Heart of a Samurai will be pleased to see an old friend, Manjiro. Meticulously researched, this historical fiction is filled with adventure and will be especially appealing to boys. The backmatter includes notes about Preus's research, glossaries of Japanese, shipboard, and military terms, and an extensive bibliography. Ten to Fourteen. Julie Dietzel-Glair
When settlers from London sail to the "New World" they expect to meet native "savages" but they would never fathom that a friendship would develop between 2 young girls, making them closer than sisters. The story is alternately told between Kimi and Alis' perspectives. Kimi is part of the Roanoke tribe and her people have every right to be fearful and even hate Alis and her group of settlers. But can the 2 girls find a way to set aside their fears in order to bring peace? (Ten to Fourteen) Anne Womack
The evacuation of an abused, crippled child to the Kent countryside during the Battle of Britain provides her with mobility (crutches and a pony she teaches herself to ride) and restores her sanity. Ada’s anger and determination get her out of the flat where she’d been hidden for ten years; her clubfoot untreated. Grimy and malnourished, she and her little brother Jamie are placed with grieving Miss Smith – not a “nice” person, by her own account, but one who comes to love them. These children know nothing. Neither has ever been to school. Their ignorance and their learning is part of the stuff of the story, but there’s also their gradual warming up to their new guardian, and the increasingly serious war around them. Ada’s first-person narration is honest and sometimes heartbreaking. The ending - with the house destroyed - is still hopeful because they have become a family. It’s unlikely, yes, but appropriate for the intended readers.Ten to Fourteen (but really 8-12). K. Isaacs
A novel about Malcolm X during his teen years, as his family is broken apart by his father's murder and his mother's mental breakdown. This fictionalized account of Malcolm Little life before he becomes Malcolm X is told by a daughter with the help of author Magoon. The time period runs from the Great Depression to 1945 and moves from Lansing to Harlem and Boston, and ultimately to prison. Fourteen and Up. Kathie Weinberg.
Three intertwined stories of music, a harmonica and dealing with difficult situations and one more story about the magic underlying all. The first story is set in Nazi Germany, the second in Phil. in 1935,the third in Calif in 1942. Prejudice affects Fritz and Ivy, poverty is the curse of Mike and Frankie. Their stories draw the reader in, the cliff hanger ending of each leaves lots of questions, the resolutions, while a bit improbable, will be very satisfying to middle school readers. Ten to Fourteen. Edie Ching.
Dodger, 17, survives in nineteenth century London by scouring its sewers for jewels. When he sees a girl desperately flee from a horse-drawn carriage trying to escape captors, he takes action that leads him to encounters with Sweeney Todd, Charles Dickens, and Benjamin Disraeli. Stephen Briggs brilliantly conveys the sorrow, dry humor, and danger in this historical fantasy. (14 up)
In 1958, 12-year-old Marlee's forbidden friend, fearless Lizzie, helps her find her own voice in concert with the adults around her who have been quietly acquiescent to the battle against integration that closed high schools in Little Rock, Arkansas, in 1958. The novel’s verbal power offers a viable alternative for Julia Whelan’s uniquely voiced and perfectly-timed audio narration. (10-14)