April 22, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

Gargoyles, Sharks, and Pandas, Oh My! | Fiction Series Update

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Beauvais, Clémentine. Gargoyles Gone AWOL. illus. by Sarah Horne. 208p. (A Sesame Seade Mystery: Bk. 2). Holiday House. May 2015. Tr $16.95. ISBN 9780823432059; ebk. $16.95. ISBN 9780823433742.

Gr 4-6 –When the gargoyles of Cambridge University go missing, roller-skating sleuth Sesame Seade is on the case, investigating clues and tracking down leads. Horne’s charming black-and-white spot illustrations add a sense of whimsy, breaking up the text, while Beauvais’s Briticisms add further to the fun. Daring and indomitable, Sesame is a delightful heroine whose snarky asides and dialogue will leave readers in stitches. Mystery and humor fans are in luck.

Black, Peter Jay. Blackout. 320p. (Urban Outlaws: Bk. 2). Bloomsbury. Jun. 2015. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781619635920.

Gr 5-8 –Fans of Anthony Horowitz who’ve devoured the “Alex Rider” books (Philomel) will gravitate to the high octane adventure, cool gadgets, and whip-smart characters in “Urban Outlaws.” In this sequel to the Robin Hood–inspired first installment, the five outlaws meet Hector, an ingenious hacker who may be their only hope of stopping an insidious computer virus threatening their own safety and that of the entire world. Cinematic scenes and sharp dialogue elevate this series from the pack of action-adventure titles.

Carroll, Robin. Samantha Sanderson Off the Record. 224p. (FaithGirlz!/Samantha Sanderson: Bk. 3). ebook available. Zonderkidz. Apr. 2015. pap. $8.99. ISBN 9780310742494.

Gr 5-7 –Middle school investigative journalist Samantha Sanderson is on the case when her school’s online grade software is compromised. With the help of her pal Makayla, the two hack into the system in order to find the culprit. When the clues point to Samantha’s friend Felicia, she must decide whether to report the facts or stay quiet. Samantha’s Christian faith and the loving support of her family are key themes in the titles. A fine addition where the previous books are popular.

Fiedler, Lisa. Hopper’s Destiny. illus. by Vivienne To. 352p. (Mouseheart: Bk. 2). S. & S./Margaret K. McElderry Bks. Mar. 2015. Tr $15.99. ISBN 9781481420891.

Gr 4-6 –In the first volume, the diminutive Hopper, a mouse escapee from a pet shop in Brooklyn, NY, finds himself among the denizens of a subterranean rat empire, Atlantia, searching for his lost siblings. The battle in the previous novel left the civilization in tatters and Hopper and his friends work tirelessly to rebuild. When the tiny mouse is taken “Upland” to the streets of Brooklyn once again, he must form new alliances and grapple with his own unique and challenging destiny. For ravenous readers of Erin Hunter, Brian Jacques, and Kathryn Lasky, this is a not-to-be-missed series.

Gibbs, Stuart. Evil Spy School. 336p. ebook available. S. & S. Apr. 2015. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781442494893.

Gr 5-7 –After getting expelled from spy school (for accidentally shooting a live mortar into his principal’s office), 13-year-old Ben Ripley is recruited by SPYDER, an organization dedicated to educating the next generation of bad guys. Acting as a double agent under deep cover, Ben tries to infiltrate the evil school and uncover their nefarious plans. With tongue-in-cheek humor and a gripping pace, readers who’ve enjoyed Gibbs’s previous novels will not be disappointed. Though this works as a stand-alone, familiarity with the other books in the “Spy School” series will make for a more satisfying read.

Hamilton, Kersten. The Ire of Iron Claw. illus. by James Hamilton. 176p. (Gadgets and Gears: Bk. 2). Houghton Harcourt. Jul. 2015. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780544225022.

Gr 2-5 –A steampunk adventure series for younger middle grade readers. In this second installment, the band of evil magicians called the Mesmers are still working on a plan for world domination. The Kennewicketts family, including boy genius Will Wally and his dachshund, Noodles, travel via air ship to Europe in order to stop the dastardly Mesmers and their minions. Black-and-white illustrations throughout combined with short chapters and an energetic pace make this series ideal for chapter book readers looking for a challenge or middle graders who want something short and fun.

Keating, Jess. How to Outswim a Shark Without a Snorkel. 304p. (My Life is a Zoo: Bk. 2). ebook available. Sourcebooks Jabberwocky. 2015. pap. $7.99. ISBN 9781402297588.

Gr 4-7 –By turns funny and poignant, this follow-up to How to Outrun a Crocodile When Your Shoelaces Are Untied (Sourcebooks, 2014) sees Ana Wright, whose family lives in a zoo, saddled with the unenviable task of working in the shark tank—with her nemesis, Ashley. Readers will easily relate to insecure Ana and will enjoy the fun animal factoids (and Ana’s own funny responses to the trivia). A relatable, if not groundbreaking, caper.

Kloepfer, John. Into the Dorkness. illus. by Nick Edwards. 256p. (Galaxy’s Most Wanted: Bk. 2). ebook available. HarperCollins/Harper. May 2015. Tr $12.99. ISBN 9780062231048.

Gr 4-7 –Readers are in for some close encounters of the zany kind. In the series opener, Kevin Brewer and his friends got more than they bargained for when a communication device they created to contact aliens resulted in their inadvertently summoning an alien fugitive to Earth. In this latest installment, tons of other alien criminals are on their way, and there’s plenty of action in store for the foursome. A quirky, fast-paced read, ideal for sci-fi fans and reluctant readers alike.

Korman, Gordon. Unleashed. 208p. ebook available. Scholastic. 2015. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780545709354; ebk. $16.99. ISBN 9780545709361.

Gr 5-7 –In this seventh book of the wacky and wildly popular mystery series, Griffin Bing and his friends take part in a competition for aspiring inventors. High jinks and humor abound in this fast-paced, dialogue-heavy adventure when the government gets involved. Korman also folds in some light commentary on gender and stereotypes, with a bit of a rift developing in Griffin’s social circle over his assumption that tech-savvy Melissa will use her skills to help him rather than focus on her own invention. Fans are in for a rip-roaring good time.


Krosoczka, Jarrett J. Last Panda Standing. illus. by Jarett J. Krosoczka. 256p. (Platypus Police Squad: Bk. 3). ebook available. HarperCollins/Walden Pond. May 2015. Tr $12.99. ISBN 9780062071682.

Gr 3-5 –Krosoczka brings his trademark whimsy to this animal-studded police procedural. The Platypus Police Squad faces yet another adventure when Detective Rick Zengo is tasked with protecting the life of mayoral candidate Frank Pandini Jr., who was recently attacked—and finding out who’s to blame. With detective lingo, standard genre tropes, stock characters, and chapter headings with times and locations à la Law & Order, this light take on the hardboiled mystery is perfect for future fans of the genre.

McAlpine, Gordon. The Pet and the Pendulum. illus. by Sam Zuppadi. 208p. (The Misadventures of Edgar & Allan Poe: Bk. 3). ebook available. Viking. Apr. 2015. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780670784929.

Gr 4-6 – Edgar and Allan, the telepathically linked great-great-great-great-grandnephews of horror writer Edgar Allan Poe, go up against the nefarious Professor Perry in this series conclusion. Fiendish plots and intrigue, literary references to Poe and other authors (Emily Dickinson and Walt Whitman make cameos), and Zuppardi’s black-and-white sketches all add to the appeal. Purchase where the previous two books were popular.

Ringwald, Whitaker. The Secret Cipher: A Secret Box Book. 256p. HarperCollins/Katherine Tegen Bks. 2015. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780062216175.

Gr 5-8 –After discovering an ancient urn in a birthday present, cousins Jax and Ethan teamed up to protect the world from the happiness-draining dark magic contained in the ancient relic. In this exciting sequel, the pair embark on a mission to destroy the two remaining urns before they fall into the wrong hands.

Rylander, Chris. Countdown Zero. 368p. ebook available. HarperCollins/Walden Pond. 2015. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780062120113.

Gr 6-8 –This sequel to Codename Zero finds former kid agent Carson Fender back in the civilian world. After foiling the dastardly villain and his terrorist plot, Carson is happily spending his days as a normal, carefree middle schooler. But when he learns about another potential mole and that one agent’s life is in danger, he finds himself back in the wild world he’d left behind. A fun series for readers who enjoy James Bond-esque thrill rides.

Shusterman, Neal & Eric Elfman. Edison’s Alley. 256p. (The Accelerati Trilogy: Bk. 2). ebook available. Disney-Hyperion. 2015. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781423148067.

Gr 4-8 –In this installment of the wacky, science thriller “Accelerati” trilogy, 14-year-old Nick discovers important artifacts in his attic left by genius scientist Nikola Tesla. The items are part of Tesla’s Free Range Energy Emitter, which could change the way the world uses energy. However, he must find the missing items needed to finsh Tesla’s contraption before a group of sinister scientists steal them for their own gain.

Valente, Catherynne M. The Boy Who Lost Fairyland. illus. by Ana Juan. 256p. (Fairyland: Bk. 4). ebook available. Feiwel & Friends. Mar. 2015. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781250023490.

Gr 5-8 –In this fourth book in the fantastical series, a young troll named Hawthorn is stolen away by the Golden Wind and brought to live in Chicago as a changeling. When he turns 12, he finds a way back to Fairyland, a place now much changed from the magical realm he left. Fans of the series may be initially disappointed to discover that September makes only a brief appearance, but not to worry—Hawthorn’s tale is just as compelling and his adventures just as extraordinary. Both the human and magical worlds are brought to vivid life through the young changelings’ unique perspective. While readers unfamiliar with the series can certainly jump in with this novel, most will want to start at the beginning. A phenomenal fantasy series worthy of a spot in every library collection.

Wheeler, Patti & Keith Hemstreet. Travels with Gannon and Wyatt: Ireland. 192p. (Travels with Gannon & Wyatt: Bk. 5). ebook available. Greenleaf. Mar. 2015. Tr $12.95. ISBN 9781626341951.

Gr 4-6 –The globetrotting brothers are back—this time exploring their ancestral roots in Ireland. Written in journal entries peppered with photos, the book takes the boys to medieval castles and the Cliffs of Moher, and Gannon even kisses the famed Blarney Stone. But their good times are put on hold when a blight threatens the countryside and the duo must uncover the cause. As in the previous installments, a strong theme about the importance of environmental conservation underscores the Indiana Jones–esque action. With elements of mystery, adventure, and history, this series will please a variety of middle grade readers.

This article was published in School Library Journal's March 2015 issue. Subscribe today and save up to 35% off the regular subscription rate.



  1. Into the Dorkness is a great title. The other books look interesting as well.