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Intermediate books you’ve been waiting for

Can’t get enough Kathi Appelt, Holly Black, Sharon Creech, or…Moose Flanagan? In these new books by favorite authors, readers will venture into a swamp and an island prison; go on a journey with a ghost; and marvel at the sudden appearance of a weird and wonderful boy.

In Kathi Appelt’s folksy tall tale The True Blue Scouts of Sugar Man Swamp, raccoons Bingo and J’miah must protect the swamp’s wild sugarcane from a gang of feral hogs, even if it means awakening the legendary Sugar Man. Meanwhile, twelve-year-old Chap Brayburn and his mother hope to save their beloved swamp from the clutches of Sonny Boy Beaucoup, who intends to turn it into a theme park. Appelt fans will enjoy this romp in the swamp related by a third-person omniscient narrator who weaves a multitude of oddball characters — and more than a touch of magic — into the fabric of bayou life. (Atheneum, 9–12 years)

Al Capone Does My Homework opens in 1936, with Moose Flanagan’s father getting promoted to associate warden on Alcatraz Island. When Moose’s family’s apartment catches on fire, he gradually realizes that his father has enemies on both sides of the prison bars. Much like Gennifer Choldenko’s two previous Alcatraz books, Al Capone Does My Shirts and Al Capone Shines My Shoes, this multifaceted novel offers something for everyone — history, mystery, intrigue, and humor — as likable Moose juggles friendships, crushes, and family and community problems. (Dial, 9–12 years)

The title of Holly Black’s latest book, Doll Bones, comes from the bone-china doll that longtime friends Zach, Poppy, and Alice use in an elaborate imaginative game. Inside the doll are the ashes of a girl whose ghost begins haunting Poppy’s dreams and who won’t rest until properly buried. Black poignantly and realistically captures how adolescence inherently brings change and the inevitable tests friendships face. Eliza Wheeler’s pencil illustrations soften spooky aspects of the children’s journey to the ghost-girl’s gravesite. (McElderry, 9–12 years)

In The Boy on the Porch, young married couple Marta and John live a quiet life together on their farm until the day a sleeping boy appears on their front porch. Jacob doesn’t speak, but he understands Marta and John, and communicates well with animals. The grownups investigate where he came from, but they also grow closer to Jacob and begin to think of him more and more as their own. The short chapters of Sharon Creech’s leisurely, contemplative novella are suitable for reading aloud, and the mysteries of Jacob’s talents and his past provide child appeal. (HarperCollins/Cotler, 9–12 years)

From the August 2013 issue of Notes from the Horn Book.

Cynthia K. Ritter About Cynthia K. Ritter

Cynthia K. Ritter is associate editor of The Horn Book Guide. She earned a master's degree in children's literature from Simmons College.

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