April 22, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

Can You Keep a Secret? Suspense-Filled Middle Grade Novels│ JLG’s Booktalks to Go

George Orwell wrote, “If you want to keep a secret, you must also hide it from yourself.” Secrets are kept for any number of reasons: embarrassment, guilt, or even fear. In a novel, a secret moves the plot along, adding more mystery to the what-if factor. What if that bag has a missile in it? What if your older sister slipped out at night, but no one knew where she went? What if the person you thought you could trust was really using you for her own gain? The following selections chosen by the editors at Junior Library Guild deliver suspense through revelations to middle grade readers.

Worst Class TripBARRY, Dave. The Worst Class Trip Ever. illus. by Jon Cannell.  224p. Disney-Hyperion. 2015. ISBN 9781484708491. JLG Category: HIM : High Interest Middle School (Grades 5–8). LiveBinder Resources.

What began as the traditional eighth grade trip to Washington, DC, turns into something else when Matt and Wyatt accuse two strange men of planning to blow up the White House. As mounting evidence begins to build, they decide it’s up to them to stop the terrorist plot and save the country.

Though Barry’s hilarious novel is written for kids who can read it for themselves, take the time to read it aloud. The absurdity of the adventures is apparent from the first sentence, “None of this stuff would have happened if I hadn’t been sitting next to Matthew Diaz.” Read more about the author on his website, like him on Facebook, and follow him on Twitter. Websites abound on national monuments and museums, but the National Park Service, the Smithsonian, and the White House offer great introductions to our nation’s capital. 

MonstrousCONNOLLY, MarcyKate. Monstrous. illus. by Skottie Young. 432p. HarperCollins. 2015. ISBN 9780062272713. JLG Category: FM : Fantasy/Science Fiction Middle (Grades 5-8). LiveBinder Resources.

Kymera has one job—slip into the wizard’s prison and rescue the  girls suffering from his curse. She must not be seen by humans, for humans attack what they don’t understand and would fear her creaturelike features.  However, a forbidden friendship with a boy who knows the city’s secrets threatens everything she believes.

Follow debut author Connolly on Twitter, and visit her website, where a sample of the audiobook is posted. An excerpt is available on her publisher’s page. A companion novel, Ravenous, is scheduled for 2016.

Terrible TwoJOHN, Jory and Mac Barnett. The Terrible Two. illus. by Kevin Cornell. 224p. Abrams/Amulet. 2015. ISBN 9781419714917.  JLG Category: HE : Humor Elementary (Grades 2-6). LiveBinder Resources.

Miles is determined to be the best prankster in his new school, but how can you beat moving the principal’s car to the top of the stairs, blocking the main entrance? When he plans his first big trick—a party for someone who doesn’t exist—the “honoree” shows up. It looks like Miles has met his match, but who could it be?.

Keep up with John’s and Barnett’s careers by following them on Twitter or visiting their websites. Check out illustrator Kevin Cornell’s work on his website, and follow him on Twitter. The Terrible Two has its own website, where readers can find videos, the authors’ biographical information, and a form to submit their own pranks.  Kick off a reading with the book trailer. Integrate the book with the Wonderopolis lesson “What Is a Hoax?”

Secret cipherRINGWALD, Whitaker. The Secret Cipher. 256p. HarperCollins/Katherine Tegen Bks. ISBN 9780062216175. JLG Category: ME : Mystery/Adventure Elementary (Grades 2-6). LiveBinder Resources. 

Jax and her cousins Ethan and Tyler are back with another fast-paced adventure. They discover that there are two more urns that could rid the world of faith and love. With enemies on their heels, the three kids race to Boston, joining a young girl with a secret of her own.

The second in the middle grade series, after The Secret Box (HarperCollins, 2014), this novel will engulf readers with its page-turning events. Read about the book and the author on the publisher’s website, where several chapters are also available. Scholastic has online worksheets for studying Greek mythology.

Moonpenny IslandSPRINGSTUBB, Tricia. Moonpenny Island. illus. by Gilbert Ford. 304p. Harpercollins/Balzer + Bray. 2015. ISBN 9780062112934. JLG Category: B+ : Upper Elementary & Junior High (Grades 5-7). LiveBinder Resources.

It’s hard to believe that an island so small that it has only one police officer could hide so many secrets. Flor’s 11th summer reveals that almost everyone has a secret. Her mom leaves and doesn’t come back. Her best friend is sent to boarding school. The arrival of newcomers leads Flor to a better understanding of herself, preparing her for the revelation of unbelievable truths.

Visit the author’s website for more information on her books. A teaching guide will soon be available on her website. Follow her on Twitter. Readers will find a sample on the publisher’s website. Budding geologists may want to learn more about trilobites at the American Museum of Natural History. 

Whispering TreesWHITE, J.A. The Thickety:  The Whispering Trees. illus. by Andrea Offermann. 528p. HarperCollins/Katherine Tegen Bks. ISBN 9780062257291. JLG Category: FM : Fantasy/Science Fiction Middle (Grades 5-8). LiveBinder Resources.

Kara and her brother Taff enter the Thickety, joining forces with the notorious witch Mary Kettle. They struggle to defeat the demon Sordyr and free the creatures he’s kept imprisoned with his dark magic, but he always seems one step ahead of them. Can they trust the witch? Could she be working for the Forest Demon?

Author White still has a day job. He’s an elementary school teacher in New Jersey. He also works with a video production company called Escape Goat Pictures. Follow him on Twitter. Watch the book trailer of this second book in the fantasy series’, after The Thickety (HarperCollins, 2014). If you show it to your kids, you’ll need to have multiple copies ready for circulation.

Additional Resources

The resources for the above titles have been organized in JLG Booktalks to Go: Spring 2015 LiveBinder. Titles are sorted by interest level, PreK-3, 3-6, 5-8, and YA. All websites are posted within each LiveBinder, along with the accompanying booktalk. As I write more columns, more books and their resources are added. Everything you need to teach or share brand new, hot-off-the-press books is now all in one place. Booktalks and resources are also included on JLG’s BTG Pinterest board.

For library resources, tips, and ideas, please visit JLG’s Shelf Life Blog.

Junior Library Guild (JLG) 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. (NOTE: JLG is owned by Media Source, Inc., SLJ’s parent company.)

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.