When kids have long outgrown the nightmare in their closet, they still clamor for a story that scares them into sleeping with the lights on. From zombies to murdering ghosts, the following new fiction titles, selected by the editors at Junior Library Guild will, at a minimum, keep middle school readers looking over their shoulders.
BACIGALUPI, Paolo. Zombie Baseball Beatdown. Little, Brown. 2013. ISBN 9780316220781. JLG Level: HIM : High Interest Middle School (Grades 5–8).
“Braaaaains!” Kids have often idly wished for something bad to happen to an adult, but Rabi and his friends never thought they’d see their baseball coach zombified. Mr. Corcoran, who also works at the town’s meatpacking plant, walks out of the cornfield, attempting to attack the boys. They soon learn that zombie cows are going to be processed into hamburger meat. Something must be done. It’s up to a group of terrified kids to expose the criminals behind the scandal, even endangering their own lives. Babigalupi’s over-the-top hilarious horror tale even takes a pokes at immigration issues, prejudice, and the power of successful businesses.
COOPER, Susan. Ghost Hawk. S & S/McElderry. 2013. ISBN 9781442481411. JLG Level: MM : Mystery/Adventure Middle & HS (Grades 7–11).
Little Hawk is murdered by a white man, shortly after he survives three months alone in the woods of pre-Colonial Massachusetts. John Wakely, feeling responsible for drawing attention to the native boy, spends the rest of his life struggling with what he feels to be right and the rigidness of the Puritan community. While he is apprenticed to a cooper, John discovers that he can see Little Hawk, but he’s never afraid of the ghostly form. Little Hawk teaches him his native language, a skill that is both useful and dangerous. Following in the path of Roger Williams and his beliefs, John sets a course to assist the Wampanoag Indians, determined to release his friend’s spirit to its resting place. Cooper’s haunting tale of the settling of the colonies is historical, exciting, and eye-opening.
GATES, S. P. The Monster in the Mudball. Lee & Low/Tu. 2013. ISBN 9781620141410. JLG Level: HIM : High Interest Middle School (Grades 5–8).
Who would have ever guessed that the mudball on the top of Madalitso’s wardrobe contains the powerful, child-eater, Zilombo? When Miss Z, Chief Investigator of Ancient Artifacts, comes for her annual inspection, she learns that Jin Spark’s baby brother’s slobber has released the monster, and everyone is now in danger. Defeating Zilombo may take more confidence than Jin ever imagined possible. How can they possibly defeat an ancient creature that constantly evolves with more defense skills? Gates’s high-action plot drives readers towards a surprising conclusion.
GOELMAN, Ari. The Path of Names. Scholastic/Arthur A. Levine. 2013. ISBN 9780545474306. JLG Level: HIM : High Interest Middle School (Grades 5–8).
Dahlia agrees to go to Jewish summer camp if her parents will allow her to attend magic camp. Her curiosity gets the better of her after she decides to investigate the groundskeeper who seems to be angry with her―without even knowing what she did. Watching campers disappear into the hedge labyrinth leads Dahlia into a fight against a monster determined to keep the children it has long captured. Goelman’s debut novel blends Jewish history with mystery to keep readers spellbound.
POBLOCKI, Dan. The Haunting of Gabriel Ashe. Scholastic. 2013. ISBN 9780545402705. JLG Level: MM : Mystery/Adventure Middle & HS (Grades 7–11).
A fire in Gabe’s home in the city causes his family to move in with his grandmother in a small country town. In the woods, his nearest neighbor, Seth, includes him in a fantasy game of The Hunter―about a cruel creature with a thirst for death. When a school pet reappears as bones and his new schoolmates tell stories of being watched, Gabe begins to waffle between blaming Seth, who is an outcast, and believing that the game is―in fact―real. Creepy and intense, Poblocki’s novel is the perfect blend of horror and mystery.
STROUD, Jonathan. The Screaming Staircase. Disney/Hyperion. 2013. ISBN 9781423164913. JLG Level: MM : Mystery/Adventure Middle & HS (Grades 7–11).
In the first of a series, Lucy narrates events of a small company of ghost-hunters. Anthony Lockwood and partner George hire her as their third associate. Accidently burning down a client’s house begins a chain reaction that causes the team to investigate a murder which leads them to the screaming staircase—an adventure more horrible than they anticipated. Stroud brilliantly weaves a mystery that allows the talents of Lockwood and Company to shine as luminous as the ghosts they work to dispel.
TAYLOR, Thomas. Haunters. Scholastic/Chicken House. 2013. ISBN 9780545496445. JLG Level: FM : Fantasy/Science Fiction Middle (Grades 5–8).
Dreams and reality blend when David learns that he is a dreamwalker. His gift allows him to travel through time while sleeping. He becomes part of a team that fights against the Haunters—those who use their abilities for evil, including changing history to their advantage. In order to save them all, David must quickly learn to use his skills to save his grandfather, which will also save his own family line. A formidable enemy and the mystery of David’s father add to the strength of the first in a science fiction series.
For audio/video versions of these booktalks, please visit JLG’s Shelf Life Blog.
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 www.JuniorLibraryGuild.com.
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