Monday, January 30, 2012

Stories about facing challenges for young readers

Growing up can take all kinds of twists and turns -- funny, scary, challenging. Here's a group of stories about how young characters face the ups and downs of life through sports, family, and school. Learning to use brains and a bit of courage helps a lot -- and makes for good reading, too!

Hound Dog True, by Linda Urban (Harcourt Children's Books) Realistic Fiction. Mattie has always been "that shy girl," and her mother's habit of pulling up stakes every time things get tough hasn't made it any easier for her to make friends. Now the two of them are going to live with Mattie's Uncle Potluck, who is the custodian at the school where she'll soon be starting fifth grade. While helping Uncle Potluck get things ready for the start of the school year, Mattie jots down his words of "custodial wisdom" in her notebook...and hatches a plan to avoid facing the other kids at school altogether. This hopeful novel about a shy girl becoming brave is one that fans of great characters and emotional stories will love.

Love of the Game, by John Coy (Feiwel and Friends) Realistic Fiction. What with bullies on the bus, hardly any classes with his friends, and some difficult changes at home, sixth-grader Jackson Kennedy hopes that playing on the football team will be his one bright spot in the new school year. But Jackson's mom and his friends' mothers are all worried that football isn't safe -- and the guys may not get to join the team. This believable novel is a quick read and will please fans of sports stories that also deal with the ups and downs of adjusting to middle school, such as Tiki Barber's Kickoff!

Vanishing Acts, by Phillip Margolin and Ami Margolin Rome (HarperCollins Children's Books) Mystery. At the start of seventh grade, Madison Kincaid and her new friend Jake have a mystery to solve: it seems that Madison's best friend, Ann, never returned from her summer vacation abroad. Meanwhile, Madison secretly helps her attorney father solve a missing-persons case that might involve Madison's teacher. With believable drama, intense courtroom scenes, and a hint of romance, this 1st volume in a new mystery series set in Portland, Oregon will be welcomed by Nancy Drew fans who'd like something a bit more modern.

Breadcrumbs, by Anne Ursu; illustrated by Erin McGuire (Walden Pond Press) Fantasy. Ten-year-old Hazel Anderson isn't happy; her parents have split, and she's had to switch to a new school where neither the kids nor the teachers understand her. She figures that as long as she has her best friend, Jack, she'll be okay...and then Jack disappears. Determined to rescue him, Hazel ventures into the snowy Minnesota woods where she last saw Jack -- and discovers a frightening magical world full of mystery and danger. If you enjoyed the mix of reality and the fantastical in Rebecca Stead's When You Reach Me, or if you like haunting, poetic stories that pull in bits and pieces from fairy tales and other books, be sure not to miss Breadcrumbs.

Pie, by Sarah Weeks (Scholastic) Mystery. When Alice's beloved Aunt Polly -- the undisputed "Pie Queen" of Ipswich, Massachusetts -- dies, Alice is devastated. Then she learns that Aunt Polly left the secret recipe for her unbeatable pie crust to her cranky cat, Lardo...and Polly bequeathed Lardo to Alice. After Lardo is kidnapped and Aunt Polly's bakery is ransacked, it's clear that someone wants the recipe very badly, and Alice and her friend Charlie are determined to figure out who it is. Sad in some parts and hilarious in others, this cozy small-town mystery set in 1955 is a good choice for readers who liked Joan Bauer's similarly food-oriented, feel-good novel Close to Famous.

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