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Recommended Page-Turners: Intermediate Fiction and Nonfiction

anderson_my diary from the edge of the worldAnderson, Jodi Lynn  My Diary from the Edge of the World
421 pp.     Simon/Aladdin     2015     ISBN 978-1-4424-8387-3
Ebook ISBN 978-1-4424-8389-7

Twelve-year-old Gracie’s world is almost like ours — except that the planet is flat, dragons exist, and poltergeists stopped the Industrial Revolution. When the arrival of a Dark Cloud seems to portend her younger brother Sam’s death, the family tries to escape fate by leaving for the fabled Extraordinary World. Intricate details of Gracie’s world emerge gradually through her sometimes humorous, sometimes poignant diary entries.
Subjects: Voyages and travels; Vehicles—Automobiles; Folklore—Animals; Supernatural; Death; Diaries; Family

boyce_astounding broccoli boyBoyce, Frank Cottrell  The Astounding Broccoli Boy
372 pp.     HarperCollins/Walden Pond     2015     ISBN 978-0-06-240017-8
Ebook ISBN 978-0-06-24002-8

Rory inexplicably turns broccoli-green and wonders if his dad could be right: “The Incredible Hulk, Swamp Thing…all superheroes. It seems to me that if you turn green, there’s only one possible diagnosis.” Shenanigans ensue as Rory and bunkmate Tommy-Lee, Rory’s real-life bully, escape the hospital, wreaking havoc around London. Boyce’s mash-up of comic-book tropes and coming-of-age struggles is funny — sometimes painfully so.
Subjects: Adventure and adventurers; Heroes; Humorous stories; Behavior—Bullying; Hospitals; Diseases; Imagination; London (England)

flake_unstoppable octobia mayFlake, Sharon G.  Unstoppable Octobia May
281 pp.     Scholastic     2014     ISBN 978-0-545-60960-9
Ebook ISBN 978-0-545-60961-6

African American Octobia May lives with her boardinghouse-owner auntie Shuma. Octobia May is convinced boarder Mr. Davenport is a vampire, but no one believes her. Unstoppable indeed is the dogged, imaginative protagonist of this fast-paced mystery set in 1953. Once Octobia May gets an idea into her head, she follows it as far as it will take her, defying gender norms and racial prejudice.
Subjects: African Americans; Mystery and detective stories; Race relations; Boardinghouses; Family—Aunts; Prejudices

gay_traveling circusGay, Marie-Louise and Homel, David  The Traveling Circus
144 pp.     Groundwood     2015     ISBN 978-1-55498-420-6
Ebook ISBN 978-1-55498-784-9

Charlie, Max, and their parents (Summer in the City) visit Croatia. This slim volume is packed full of their adventures in an unfamiliar landscape, from almost getting arrested (because Max has to pee) to meeting the mysterious hermit of Vrgada and learning about the costs of war. Charlie’s wide-eyed first-person point of view keeps this latest travel romp as fresh as the others.
Subjects: Voyages and travels; Circuses; Croatia

pennypacker_paxPennypacker, Sarah  Pax
278 pp.     HarperCollins/Balzer + Bray     2016     ISBN 978-0-06-237701-2
Ebook ISBN 978-0-06-237703-6

Illustrated by Jon Klassen. When his father enlists, twelve-year-old Peter is forced to release his pet fox into the wild. Omniscient third-person chapters alternate between Peter’s and Pax’s stories as boy and fox try to find each other — and as soldiers prepare for an unnamed war practically in Peter’s backyard. Occasional black-and-white illustrations portray scenes both ordinary-seeming and subtly menacing. An emotional, thought-provoking story of conflict, loyalty, and love.
Subjects: Pets; Animals—Foxes; Soldiers; War; Adventure and adventurers

pizzoli_tricky vicPizzoli, Greg  Tricky Vic: The Impossibly True Story of the Man Who Sold the Eiffel Tower [nonfiction]
48 pp.     Viking     2015     ISBN 978-0-670-01652-5

Con artist (“but an artist all the same”) “Count Victor Lustig” (born Robert Miller) fleeced his way as a card shark back and forth across the Atlantic; went into a counterfeiting scam in Chicago; then, in his greatest trick, convinced a Parisian businessman to buy the “salvage” of the Eiffel Tower. A genially sinister design incorporates cartoons and photographs; sidebars provide historical context. Websites. Bib., glos.
Subjects: Individual Biographies; Swindlers and swindling; Eiffel Tower; Crime; Lustig, Victor

preus_bamboo swordPreus, Margi  The Bamboo Sword
340 pp.     Abrams/Amulet     2015     ISBN 978-1-4197-0807-7

A dozen years after the events of Heart of a Samurai, American ships arrive in Japan to force trade. Preus retells this gunboat diplomacy’s world-changing effects through two boys: servant Yoshi (who longs to be a samurai) and cabin boy Jack. Bolstered by period illustrations and rich appended material, the book is solidly historical but never forgets to be an adventure story. Bib., glos.
Subjects: Nakahama, Manjiro; Sea stories; Friendship; Samurai; Japan; Adventure and adventurers; Perry, Matthew Calbraith; Vehicles—Ships

ryan_echoRyan, Pam Muñoz  Echo
590 pp.     Scholastic     2015     ISBN 978-0-439-87402-1
Ebook ISBN 978-0-545-57650-5

Illustrated by Dinara Mirtalipova. A boy is mesmerized by a tale about three princesses trapped under a witch’s spell until they save a life through a special harmonica. This story within a story is prelude to three more. Ryan’s storytelling prowess and vivid voice lead readers through a hefty tome illuminated by layers of history, adventure, and the seemingly magical but ultimately very human spirit of music.
Subjects: Musical instruments—Harmonica; Music; Germany; Nazism; Orphans; Family—Siblings; Pennsylvania; California; Farms and farm life; Prejudices

sachar_fuzzy mudSachar, Louis  Fuzzy Mud
181 pp.     Delacorte     2015     ISBN 978-0-385-74378-5
Library binding ISBN 978-0-375-99129-5
Ebook ISBN 978-0-385-37021-9

Tamaya (fifth grade) and Marshall (seventh) take a shortcut to evade bully Chad, and Tamaya develops a mysterious rash from slinging a handful of mud at Chad. Interspersed with this expert school survival drama are excerpts of testimony from “secret Senate hearings” about a microscopic manmade organism that escaped a laboratory. This exciting tale blends horror with sober consideration of ethics and science.
Subjects: Diseases; Schools

sales_once was a timeSales, Leila  Once Was a Time
321 pp.     Chronicle     2016     ISBN 978-1-4521-4009-4

In World War II England, best friends Lottie and Kitty are kidnapped to force Lottie’s scientist father to reveal the secrets of time travel. Lottie escapes through a time portal — leaving Kitty behind. In 2013 Wisconsin, Lottie searches for answers about her friend’s fate. Sales handles time travel lightly, allowing her to explore perspectives on time and aging without getting bogged down in details.
Subjects: Time travel; History, Modern—World War II; England; Wisconsin

shusterman_edison's alleyShusterman, Neal and Elfman, Eric  Edison’s Alley
250 pp.     Disney/Hyperion     2015     ISBN 978-1-4231-4806-7

Accelerati Trilogy series. Nick Slate (Tesla’s Attic) believes he can keep an ominous asteroid at bay with Tesla’s Far Range Energy Emitter — but to build it he must track down many odd gizmos he mistakenly sold at his garage sale. The quirky gadgetry from the first book returns in full force, and secondary characters feel more fleshed out. Humor and a strong narrative voice carry the day.
Subjects: Inventions and inventors; Tesla, Nikola; Colorado; Science fiction

smith_hoodooSmith, Ronald L.  Hoodoo
206 pp.     Clarion     2015     ISBN 978-0-544-44525-3

Folks in the insular 1930s African American community of Sardis, Alabama, believe in God and in folk magick, or hoodoo. Twelve-year-old Hoodoo Hatcher’s father tried to cheat death by transporting part of his soul into Hoodoo. To free him, Hoodoo must destroy the evil Stranger. This creepy Southern Gothic ghost story is steeped in time and place; Hoodoo’s folksy asides relieve tension.
Subjects: Intermediate Fiction; Alabama; African Americans; Family—Father and son; Magic; Supernatural—Ghosts; Southern States

urban_milo speck accidental agentUrban, Linda  Milo Speck, Accidental Agent
266 pp.     Houghton     2015      ISBN 978-0-544-41951-3

Illustrated by Mariano Epelbaum. Milo is sucked into a clothes dryer and transported to another world inhabited by a race of giant ogres who snack on human children. Survival and escape are Milo’s goals, but then he discovers others have been captured. Milo finds his inner hero in a hectic, hilarious series of revelations, chase scenes, and near-death experiences.
Subjects: Adventure and adventurers; Magic; Family—Father and son; Fantasy

From the July 2016 issue of What Makes a Good…?: “What Makes a Good Page-Turner?”

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