A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness (2011)

monsterA moving and heartbreakingly honest modern fairy tale.

Recommended grade level: 6 and up; maybe older for sensitive readers

Pages: 216 (for ISBN 9781406311525)

Genre(s) and keywords: fantasy, (light) horror, drama, British import, Europe (England), Kylie’s Favorites

Tone/Style: mysterious, sad

Pace: moderate to fast

Topics: monsters, fables, ill parents

Themes: being honest with oneself, death, acceptance, grief and loss, denial, change, moving on, family

Summary:  The monster showed up just after midnight. As they do. But it isn’t the monster Conor’s been expecting. He’s been expecting the one from his nightmare, the one he’s had nearly every night since his mother started her treatments, the one with the darkness and the wind and the screaming… The monster in his back garden, though, this monster is something different. Something ancient, something wild. And it wants the most dangerous thing of all from Conor. It wants the truth.

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Samurai Rising by Pamela S. Turner (2016)

samBlood and battles abound in the epic story of one of Japan’s first samurai.

Recommended grade level: 6 and up

Pages:   236 (for ISBN 9781580895842)

Genre(s) and keywords: nonfiction, action, history, international, Asia (Japan)

Tone/Style: grimly gleeful

Pace: fast

Topics: samurai, medieval Japan, war, revenge

Themes: loyalty, honor, death

Summary: Child exile. Teenage runaway. Military genius. Immortal hero.

Yoshitsune had little going for him. Exiled to a monastery, he had no money, no allies, and no martial training. He wasn’t big or strong or good-looking. His only assets were brains, ambition, and a dream. But childhood dreams can change history.

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Space Case by Stuart Gibbs

spaceA well-crafted mystery with a healthy dose of sci-fi, a bit of humor, interesting characters, and a surprise at the end.

Recommended grade level: 4-7

Pages:   352 (for ISBN 9781442494862)

Genre(s) and keywords: mystery, science fiction, adventure, humor

Tone/Style: intelligent, humorous

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Jeremy Fink and the Meaning of Life by Wendy Mass (2006)

jeremy

Two kids set out to solve a puzzle to answer a big question.

Recommended grade level: 4-8

Pages: 289 (for ISBN 9780316058292)

Genre(s) and keywords: realistic fiction, mystery

Tone/Style: curious, rebellious

Pace: leisurely to moderate

Topics: searches, important objects, puzzles

Themes: death of a loved one, grief and loss, reconciling with the past, finding meaning

Summary: Twelve-year-old Jeremy receives a wooden box in the mail with the words, “The Meaning of Life—for Jeremy Fink to open on his 13th birthday.” He recognizes the box as his dad’s handiwork, although his dad passed away five years earlier. The box has four locks, requiring four keys. But the keys are missing. He and his best friend Lizzy set off on a quest through the streets of Manhattan to find the keys before time runs out. (Source) Continue reading

When Friendship Followed Me Home by Paul Griffin (2016)

whenfriendship_front-165x248If you want issues, this book has got them.  Lots of them.

Recommended grade level: 5-8

Pages: 256 (for ISBN 9780803738164 )

Genre(s) and keywords: realistic fiction

Tone/Style: resigned, exploratory

Pace: moderate

Topics: dogs, cancer, writing, magicians, libraries, adoptees, abuse

Themes: illness, belonging, finding meaning, grief and loss, death, change

Summary: Ben Coffin knows from foster care that people can leave you without a good-bye. That’s why he prefers to hide out in the Coney Island library with his sci-fi novels, until he rescues an abandoned dog from the alley next door. Scruffy little Flip introduces Ben to fellow book lover Halley—yes, like the comet. Some call her Rainbow Girl for her crazy-colored clothes, but for Ben it’s her laugh, pure magic, the kind that makes you smile away the stormiest day. Continue reading

srsly Hamlet by Courtney Carbone (2015)

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It’s Shakespeare…in text messages. I’m amazed nobody tried this sooner.

Recommended grade level: 7 and up

Pages: 128 (for ISBN 9780553535389)

Genre(s) and keywords: humor, retellings, text

Tone/Style: chatspeak

Pace: fast

Topics: murder, ghosts, royalty

Themes: revenge, indecision, parent/child relationships, suicide, death, action vs. inaction

Summary: Hamlet, one of the greatest stories ever told . . . in texts?! Continue reading

Lost in the Sun by Lisa Graff (2015)

lost

A melancholy tale of a boy who acts out because of guilt, loneliness, and low self-esteem after causing the accidental death of a peer.

Recommended grade level: 5-8

Pages: 304 (for ISBN 9780399164064)

Genre(s) and keywords: realistic

Tone/Style: melancholy

Pace: leisurely

Topics: causing an accidental death, emotional problems, divorced parents, lost friendships, new friendships, brothers

Themes: reasons for misbehavior, coping with guilt, managing anger and other emotions, opening oneself to be helped by others, coping with feelings of inadequacy, earning trust

Summary: Seven months ago, a freak accident on Cedar Lake left one kid dead, and Trent Zimmerman with a brain full of thoughts he can’t shake. Continue reading