August 21, 2014

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JLG’s On the Radar: Intermediate Fiction for Independent Readers

Students in grades three to six come in a variety of shapes and sizes, and they have different interests and reading levels. Lucky for them, this spring’s releases offer stories for readers of all tastes: a classic orphan story, a fantasy about nightmares, a Hollywood drama, a laugh-out-loud detective tale, and a mystery surrounding a missing camera. Also perfect for reading aloud, the following fiction titles will keep readers engaged with the characters, old and new.

Hollywood JLG’s On the Radar: Intermediate Fiction for Independent ReadersKLISE, Kate. Hollywood, Dead Ahead,. Bk. 5. illus. by M. Sarah Klise. (43 Old Cemetery Road Series) Houghton Harcourt. 2013. JLG Level: A+ : Intermediate Readers (Grades 3–5).

The fifth entry in the 43 Old Cemetery Road series takes the reader on a field trip to Hollywood. When Moe Block Busters buys the production rights for the threesome’s story, the reality of the unread contract hits Olive first. There’s no flight or hotel room for her. Her ghostly character is replaced by an elderly living legend, Ivana Oscar. To make matters worse, Ignatius gets an endless Hollywood makeover, and Seymour’s celebrity status goes to his head. The fine print calls for Ivana to die during production―even if the director has to kill her himself. Klise’s use of letter writing, journals, and newspapers keeps the story at a brisk pace, causing readers to race towards the dramatic conclusion.

Emily JLG’s On the Radar: Intermediate Fiction for Independent ReadersNAYLOR, Phyllis Reynolds. Emily and Jackson Hiding Out. Delacorte. 2012. ISBN 9780375989780. JLG Level: A : Intermediate Readers (Grades 3–5).

Emily couldn’t be happier to be adopted by Aunt Hilda. She and Jackson were also delighted to get away from Uncle Victor, who only wanted her fortune. Life settles into carrying out ordinary chores and always having plenty to do and eat. Jackson, however, is never far from mischief, and being a runaway orphan, he must hide from the child catcher who wants to send him to work out west. Aunt Hilda has gone to town when a mysterious widow appears at their door. The two become suspicious of all her questions. Who is this meddling woman? Why won’t she show her face? Have they escaped danger after all? In this sequel to Emily’s Fortune, the melodrama returns, complete with cliff-hanger questions at each chapter’s end―”Now what in steamin’ stompers would they do?”

Timmy JLG’s On the Radar: Intermediate Fiction for Independent ReadersPASTIS, Stephan. Timmy Failure: Mistakes Were Made. illus. by author. Candlewick. 2013. ISBN 9780763660505. JLG Level: HE : Humor Elementary (Grades 2–6).

“It’s harder to drive a polar bear into somebody’s living room than you’d think.” So begins the prologue in the story of Timmy Failure and his detective agency―Total Failure, Inc. Named for his polar bear partner, Total, the young sleuth obliviously sifts through clues while the reader laughs out loud. He loses his Failuremobile and can’t seem to solve the mystery. It’s bad for business if a detective can’t solve his own problems. Punctuated with Wimpy Kid-type illustrations, one chuckle rolls right into the next. Add his buddy, Rollo Tookus who wants to get into “Stanfurd,” Molly with a huge crush on Timmy, and the Beast (also known as Corrina Corrina (who smells like tangerines), or the One Whose Name Shall Not Be Uttered, and you have an hysterical tongue-in-cheek first novel that will have you in tears of laughter by the end of chapter one.

Big Nate Flips JLG’s On the Radar: Intermediate Fiction for Independent ReadersPEIRCE, Lincoln. Big Nate Flips Out. HarperCollins. illus. by author. 2013. ISBN 9780061996641. JLG Level: A : Intermediate Readers (Grades 3–5).

When Big Nate and his friends decide to join the yearbook staff, they never expected that “Pushy McBossaround” Gina would be the editor. Francis becomes co-editor to bring balance and prevent the major mistakes from last year’s edition. Big Nate’s messiness gets out of control when he loses the school camera. His friends decide that hypnotism could be the answer to his problems; instead, the experiment results in a new Nate they no longer recognize. Who is this neat guy who draws comics in straight lines? Will the camera be found? Will Nate be neat forever? Has he really flipped out? Sprinkled with comic drawings and quick-witted dialogue, Pierce delivers another knockout.

Nightmare JLG’s On the Radar: Intermediate Fiction for Independent ReadersVERNON, Ursula. Dragonbreath: Nightmare of the Iguana. illus. by author. Dial. 2013. ISBN 9780803738461. JLG Level: A+ : Intermediate Readers (Grades 3–5).

Wendell’s nightmares are larger than life. Monsters chase him, things attack him, and he isn’t wearing any clothes. Usually he falls off a cliff. By the time he wakes up, he’s exhausted. He needs help, so he calls his friend Danny who agrees to watch him sleep. He is supposed to look for Night Mare tracks and the sounds of the Dream Wasp. Between glowing hoof prints and an angry buzz, it’s clear that it’s not just Wendell’s imagination. Great-Grandfather Dragonbreath would know what to do. And he does. Danny must enter Wendell’s dreams with a baku (a dream-eater) to prevent the Dream Wasp from laying eggs in his brain. Green highlighted cartoons guide the reader through the land of nightmares where secrets, wishes, and fears are revealed to the iguana’s closest friends. Can they stop the Wasp? Can they save themselves? Fans of the “Dragonbreath” series will be happy for the return, and new readers will want to check out the first seven books.

For strategies about how to use these books and links to supportive sites, check out the Junior Library Guild blog, Shelf Life.

Junior Library Guild is a collection development service that helps school and public libraries acquire the best new children’s and young adult books. Season after season, year after year, Junior Library Guild book selections go on to win awards, collect starred or favorable reviews, and earn industry honors. Visit us at

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Deborah B. Ford About Deborah B. Ford

Deborah is the Director of Library Outreach for Junior Library Guild. She is an award-winning teacher librarian with almost 30 years of experience as a classroom teacher and librarian in K–12 schools.



  1. I absolutely LOVE Kate Klise’s books! REGARDING THE FOUNTAIN is one of my favorites, and her new one HOMESICK is a wonderful story! Her alternative formats are so creative!