Wednesday, August 11, 2010

New summer fiction and fantasy for tweens

Is your summer lacking a little adventure? Well here are some stories that will take you out of the ordinary without leaving your chair, from the crowded "stack cities" of a future Earth to an afterworld populated by wayward ghosts. Look for these using the Amazon and World Catalog search boxes here on BookBag ... and watch out for aliens.

Little Blog on the Prairie, by Cathleen Davitt Bell (Bloomsbury) Fiction. Thirteen-year-old Gen Welsh is looking forward to a summer of lounging around the pool and hanging out with friends, but Gen's mom has other plans. She's signed the whole family up for a "vacation" at Camp Frontier, where people pay to experience the sort of life that American pioneers lived in the 1890s. No phones, iPods, computers, or other gadgets are allowed; there's no running water or electricity; and everyone is expected to milk cows and tend crops. But Gen manages to sneak in a cell phone (in order to send surreptitious text-message updates to friends back home) and inadvertently causes a wagonload of trouble. This fast-paced, funny story has great characters, family drama, and even a bit of romance--no batteries required.

Dark Life, by Kat Falls (Scholastic Press) Science Fiction. Years after global catastrophes toppled most of Earth's land into the ocean, those who live above ground are crammed into towering "stack cities." But a few intrepid pioneers have built new lives with plenty of elbow room--under the sea! Fifteen-year-old Ty has lived his whole life "subsea" farming the ocean floor with his family, and it's a life he'd love if it weren't for the dangerous, marauding Seablite Gang. When Topsider Gemma braves Ty's world to search for her missing brother, the two of them take on the outlaws and uncover some long-buried secrets of the deep. With all the action and atmosphere of a Wild-West yarn in a fascinatingly detailed, futuristic undersea setting, Dark Life is a must-read for fans of strong world-building.

Boom! (Or 70,000 Light Years), by Mark Haddon (David Fickling Books) Humorous Adventure. After planting a walkie-talkie in the teachers' lounge, pals Jimbo and Charlie overhear two of their teachers speaking in a weird language that's like none they've ever heard. Now irresistibly curious, the boys investigate further ... and find out that their school's faculty has been infiltrated by aliens. Before long, Charlie disappears--or is, perhaps, abducted--and it's up to Jimbo and his cranky older sister to save him (and possibly the entire world). Kooky characters, madcap action, and plenty of old-school sci-fi details make Boom! an out-of-this-world read, especially for fans of Mark Teague's The Doom Machine.

The Case of the Gypsy Good-bye, by Nancy Springer (Philomel Books) Historical Mystery. This 6th and final book in the excellent series starring Enola Holmes (the much younger sister of Sherlock Holmes) wraps up Enola's adventures in a wholly satisfying way. The beautiful high-society matron Lady Blanchefleur has gone missing in the eerie underground tunnels of London's subway, and Enola is on the case. Meanwhile, the plucky and resourceful girl detective has a perplexing message from her mother--who abandoned her a year ago--to decode. Offering a clever mystery to unravel in addition to its vividly detailed Victorian setting, emotionally involving story, and ample adventure, The Case of the Gypsy Good-bye is a richly rewarding read.

Bulu: African Wonder Dog, by Dick Houston (Random House) Nonfiction. After moving from England to Zambia to realize their dream of establishing a wildlife education center there--and despite warnings about the dangers facing a pet in the Zambian bush--Steve and Anna Tolan adopt a Jack Russell terrier pup who becomes a part not just of their family, but of their work, too. When the Tolans rehabilitate orphaned wild creatures, Bulu nurtures and protects them as if they were his own, even challenging deadly predators in order to do his duty. Animal lovers, adventure fans, and those interested in either wildlife conservation or the African wilderness will love this book. For more true stories of remarkable dogs, check out Brian Dennis' Nubs or Leslea Newman's Hachiko Waits.

Ghostopolis, by Doug TenNapel (Scholastic) Graphic Novel. Young Garth Hale is understandably obsessed with death; he's been diagnosed with an incurable disease. But Garth never expected his trip to the afterlife to happen so suddenly...and with him still very much alive. World-weary Supernatural Immigration agent Frank Gallows--whose job it is to send wayward ghosts back to the land of the dead--has accidentally zapped Garth to the other side along with Gallows' intended bounty, a skeleton horse. Surrounded by terrifying creatures and pursued by the evil ruler of Ghostopolis, Garth teams up with his grandfather's ghost and the horse, Skinny, to find a way home. With artwork that fairly pulsates with energy and a plot packed with surprising twists, this creepy, grim-yet-hilarious adventure is a real page-turner.

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