Who Killed Darius Drake? by Rodman Philbrick is a mystery story for those who would love a real mystery to drop into their ordinary lives even when they are not looking for it. That's what happens to Arthur Bash, a self described "thug" on the outside, who can be "hired" for candy bars to scare people away with a look, but is really a softie inside and doesn't believe he's very brave at all. When the class nerd and "weirdo" Darius Drake hires him to help him help solve a mystery, Arthur finds out what he is really made of! Darius, an orphan has been mysteriously threatened and the answer to why and by whom relates back to his parents who dies in a car crash, his famous Indiana Jones type of grandfather and a $15 million dollar necklace that has been missing since their town's earliest beginnings. As the boys begin to uncover clue after clue, they involve Arthur's "perfect" step sister, Dierdre and together the three discover not just a historic mystery but true friendship as well. Mystery, Grade 4-6.
Izzy Kline has Butterflies by Beth Ain introduces the reader to Izzy as she enters 4th grade with plenty of nerves and worries. The two girls who she thought of as best friends no longer want to include her, their are four very annoying boys in her class and her father and mother are divorced. But things begin to look up when she finds a new girl in her class, Quinn, to laugh with, her older brother who gives good advice and shares great old music a few teachers to love. Then Izzy finds out the 4th grade "play" is actually a year long look at Free to Be...You and Me, in which are good songs, great life lessons an maybe a big part for her. The reader is along for a great ride, all told in short verse, with lots of feeling, laughs and fun. Realistic Fiction, Grade 3-5
The Ambrose Deception by Emily Ecton is an adventure mystery set right in Chicago. Three middle school students receive a letter telling them they are each chosen to compete for a ten thousand-dollar scholarship. They're given a driver, a cell phone, a debit card, a camera, and three clues, with the instruction that they are to tell no one what they're doing. They are not at all the students teachers or principals at their schools would have expected to be chosen. Their schools would describe Melissa as a quiet girl that nobody notices, though she is quite entrepreneurial, Wilf as a slacker and Bondi as a smooth talker who the school has no patience for. Yet each begin to solve their different sets of clues which take them to Chicago icons and into Chicago history until they begin to realize the whole competition might be a sham. Working together, using their unique talents they might solve a bigger mystery that could change their lives forever. Fun! Adventure/Mystery Grade 4-6
In Stella Diaz has Something to Say by Angela Dominguez meet Stella, who is in 3rd grade, her older brother Nick in 8th grade and their mother who works at the local radio station living in a city like Arlington Heights near Chicago. Stella gets help at school for her English, and although she does not feel she needs it, she does hate to speak out in class, afraid others will make fun of her accent or her occasional mix up of Spanish and English words. Her extended family and her mother are from Mexico City and they keep up some of the wonderful traditions of their culture at home, like salsa dancing, food. Stella's best friend's family is from Vietnam so the story is sprinkled with holidays and food from several cultures. Join her, as she navigates a bully in her class, meets a new student from Texas, and grows in confidence and courage to find her special voice. Realistic Fiction, Grade 2-4
Baby Monkey Private Eye by David Selznick is a unique easy reader that can be enjoyed from Kindergarten to adult. Baby monkey is both a monkey and a detective, solving cases on every couple of pages, with fun and detailed illustrations that contain clues. Enjoy solving cases with baby monkey and hope for more installments! Fantasy, Grade K-5.
Knockout by K. A. Holt is the sequel to House Arrest in which middle schooler, Timothy, steals money to help pay for his younger brother Levi's medication. Levi has a severe breathing problem and cannot survive without a tracheostomy. Timothy is arrested and because he is so young and was helping his family, he is put on "house arrest" in which he is only allowed to go to school, see a counselor, and be at home. In Knockout we re-meet the family ten years later and this time it is Levi's story. Levi has survived, is now in middle school, and although he is still carefully monitored and is physically small he is otherwise healthy. Timothy is now planning to go to medical school and their father is back in the picture trying hard to do the right thing this time. Through Levi's short prose, almost poetry, the reader gets to know this funny smart boy who only wants to be allowed to be normal. When he tries out boxing and finds a passion, his mother and Timothy are fearful. Will they continue to smother him or let him live the normal life he desires and they both fought hard for him to have? Realistic Fiction, Grades 4-6, who have read House Arrest.
Riding Lessons by Jane Smiley brings the reader into the world of a horse and horse back riding lover, Ellen. In 4th grade, Ellen is imaginative, spunky and sometimes in trouble or bored in school but really lives for Saturdays when she has her riding lessons. She rides a horse called Blue, learning to canter and jump but also learns how to care for the horses and get them ready for riding. Spending most of the day with her teacher on a ranch, Ellen also meets the other horses, including Ned, a special horse she would like to own and with whom she believes she can communicate. At home, she is adjusting to a new baby sister, while trying to make her parents understand how important riding is to her. This book is packed full of horse and riding life. Sports fiction, grade 3-5.
Unbound by Ann E. Burg is the moving story of a family of slaves, living on a tobacco plantation in a southern state in terribly harsh conditions. Grace, who is about 11 years old, lives with her mother, step father and young step brothers is light skinned and therefore chosen to move to the big house to be a house slave helping out in the kitchen. Leaving her family is devastating but in addition to missing her family Grace sees even more injustice among the unfeeling missus and master of the plantation. Warned by her mother to keep her eyes down and opinions inside, Grace is terrified they will see her rebellious spirit. But when she finds out the master may sell her mother and brothers, she goes to work helping her family to escape, taking a harrowing journey to potential freedom. Told in short verse and based on fact this is an incredible journey. Historical Fiction, grades 4-6.
HOOPS Elle of the Ball is written by Elena Delle Donne a real WNBA player and Olympic gold medalist. The story, based on her own experiences follows Elle as she begins 7th grade, the tallest student in her grade at six feet tall. Elle loves basketball and plays on her school's team but this year is having trouble getting used to her new height, having grown many inches since last year. On top of the new awkward feeling on the basketball court, the school's mandatory "cotillion" dance is coming up and Elle would prefer not getting all dressed up and parading around at a dance where she feels even more awkward. But with some good friends and supportive parents Elle is figuring out how to be proud of her height and show there is more to her than just her height. Full of a lot of real basketball drills and strategy. Sports fiction, grades 3-5.
My Reading List!
I am the Library Media Center director at Patton School in Arlington Heights where I help students from kindergarten through 5th grade find terrific independent reading for enjoyment and information, and teach students the skills to use information and technology safely and productively and to connect, communicate and share with others. I have four grown children, a large black dog, (flat coat retriever) and a small striped cat. I am an obessive Chicago Cubs fan and I love to run.