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Book Summaries

Book Summaries   
 

Among the Hidden

Among the Hidden is a thought-provoking story set in of the not too distant future that explores the choices and challenges faced by an early adolescent boy as he struggles to find his place in a world in which his existence is illegal. Luke, a third child, lives in a future where each family is allowed to have only two children. Because his parents broke the population laws when they let him live, Luke must stay hidden in his house, has never been to school, must eat in the attic stairwell to avoid being seen, and must spend his days with nothing to do except re-read a few old books and observe his neighborhood through the attic air vents.

When he discovers another third child, Jennifer Rose Talbot, also hiding in his neighborhood, he dares to venture outside his attic-hiding place and thus discovers a network of hidden children who communicate via Internet chat rooms. As Luke's friendship with Jen grows, he learns that she is organizing the hidden children to protest against the government's oppressive laws, and he must decide whether to defy the government and seek freedom. In this futuristic dystopia, Haddix explores the consequences of population control and other policies of a totalitarian government on individuals living in that society, and she explores how far an individual will go to have a life that is worth living.

Extra Credit

It isn’t that Abby Carson can’t do her schoolwork. She just doesn’t like doing it. And in February a warning letter arrives at her home. Abby will have to repeat sixth grade—unless she meets some specific conditions, including taking on an extra credit project: find a pen pal in a distant country. Seems simple enough.

But when Abby's first letter arrives at a small school in Afghanistan, the teacher takes it to the village elders. And everyone agrees that any letters going back to America must be written well in English. And the only qualified student is a boy, Sadeed Bayat. Except in this village, it is not proper for a boy to correspond with a girl. So Sadeed’s younger sister will write the letters. Except she knows hardly any English. So Sadeed must write the letters. But what about the villagers who believe that girls should not be anywhere near a school? And what about those who believe that any contact with Americans is . . . unhealthy?

As letters flow back and forth—between the prairies of Illinois and the mountains of central Asia, across cultural and religious divides, through the minefields of different lifestyles and traditions—a small group of children begin to speak and listen to each other. And in just a few short weeks, they make important discoveries about their communities, about their world, and most of all, about themselves.

 

Soft Rain

In Soft Rain, a 9-year-old Cherokee girl finds herself in the same situation as Sweet Leaf as soldiers arrive one day to take her and her mother to walk the Trail of Tears, leaving the rest of her family behind. It all begins when Soft Rain's teacher reads a letter stating that as of May 23, 1838, all Cherokee people are to leave their land and move to what many Cherokees called "the land of darkness". . .the west. Soft Rain is confident that her family will not have to move, because they have just planted corn for the next harvest. Because Soft Rain knows some of the white man's language, she soon learns that they must travel across rivers, valleys, and mountains. On the journey, she is forced to eat the white man's food and sees many of her people die. Her courage and hope are restored when she is reunited with her father, a leader on the Trail, chosen to bring her people safely to their new land.

 

Kenny & the Dragon

From Tony DiTerlizzi, one of the creators of The Spiderwick Chronicles, comes this new chapter book that is a retelling of Kenneth Grahame's classic tale "The Reluctant Dragon." This story of a battle between a bookseller named George and a dragon named Grahame is loosely based on the legendary battle between St. George and the dragon.

Kenny Rabbit is a bookish, somewhat lonely little bunny who lives in the sleepy village of Roundbrook. Kenny is thrilled to learn that a dragon (whose name is Grahame, like the cracker) has come to live on the hill behind his mom and dad's farm. Kenny and his parents soon learn that Grahame is that rarity among dragons, a gentle and cultured fellow. Grahame loves literature, enjoys reciting long poems over dinner, and only uses his fire-breathing abilities to torch crème brûlée through his left nostril.

At school one day, Kenny accidentally lets slip the fact that he has seen a real, live dragon and that it is nothing like the dragons in tales. As the villagers learn of the dragon's presence in their midst, their panic and fear spreads, putting Kenny's new friend in grave danger. In fact, Kenny's other best friend, George, a retired knight and dragonslayer, has been ordered by the king to exterminate Grahame. Kenny is desperate to keep his two friends from fighting and perhaps killing each other, but no one will listen to him in the frenzy leading up to the battle.

Kenny must find a way to convince Grahame and George that they would become fast friends if they only got to know each other. He alone has the power to stop this battle and save both his friends. How will he do it?

Escape From Mr. Lemoncello’s Library

Escape from Mr. Lemoncello's Library, by Chris Grabenstein, is the story of an eccentric billionaire named Luigi Lemoncello and his plan to share his love of libraries with the children of Alexandriaville. Lemoncello gives a great deal of money to have the former Gold Leaf Bank renovated as the town’s new library. As a game guru, he has equipped his library with all sorts of high tech electronic gadgets and gizmos, including the Electronic Learning Center filled with interactive games and tools. Lemoncello's library also contains a salute to Gail Tobin, the librarian who helped him develop and market his first game.

Hoping that the children will learn to love their town library just as much as Lemoncello loved the library as a child, Lemoncello has the head librarian, Dr. Yanina Zinchenko, put together a challenge in which students must find a secret passageway out of the library as a gift for his birthday. The contestants must answer quizzes and riddles using information they find in the library to gather clues that point them to the escape route. Until the last hours of the competition, Lemoncello watches the children through video cameras. Then, he joins them to see how the game will turn out. One contestant is bent on winning, even if it means cheating, bullying, and stealing. However, Kyle Keeley and his teammates prevail in the end by playing the game fairly. The team shows that even sentimental saps and bookworms are winners in their own way. Kyle and his four friends find the escape route from the library just in time to claim the grand prize of serving as Lemoncello's spokesmen. Though the prize is fantastic, the lessons that Kyle learns about the library, reading, and teamwork are life-changing.

Turtle in Paradise

During the Great Depression, Turtle's mother takes a job as a housekeeper for a family that didn't like children.  Turtle and her cat, Smokey, were sent off to live in Florida with her aunt and cousins who don't even know they were coming.  Key West is very different from her previous home, but she soon adjusts to the her new life.  She is taken on many adventures with her cousins who are in a "Diaper Gang." This all boy "gang" takes care of babies in exchange for candy.  Turtle ends up unexpectedly meeting her grandmother who she had been told was dead.  While trying to form a relationship with her, she finds a treasure map in her house.  This leads Turtle and her cousins on an adventure that she won't soon forget to find buried pirate treasure.  When her mom comes to get Turtle from her aunt's house, Turtle starts to believe that a Hollywood ending is possible for her family, but ends up learning a hard lesson about life.  Through this lesson comes the greatest realization that a loving family is better than a Hollywood ending.  

Blue

With her father away at war to fight Hitler, a young girl gains strength by joining her community in battling polio in this Parents' Choice Silver Honor Book based on the 1944 epidemic and the "Miracle of Hickory" Hospital in Hickory, North Carolina. Ann Fay Honeycutt accepts the role of "man of the house" when her father leaves because she wants to do her part for the war. She's doing well with the extra responsibilities when a frightening polio epidemic strikes, crippling many local children. Her town of Hickory responds by creating an emergency hospital in three days. Ann Fay reads each issue of the newspaper for the latest news of the epidemic. But soon she discovers for herself just how devastating polio can be. As her challenges grow, so does her resourcefulness. In the face of tragedy, Ann Fay discovers her ability to move forward. She experiences the healing qualities of friendship and explores the depths of her own faithfulness to those she loves—even to one she never expected to love at all. 

Where the Mountain Meets the Moon

In the valley of Fruitless mountain, a young girl named Minli lives in a ramshackle hut with her parents. In the evenings, her father regales her with old folktales of the Jade Dragon and the Old Man of the Moon, who knows the answers to all of life's questions. Inspired by these stories, Minli sets off on an extraordinary journey to find the Old Man of the Moon to ask him how she can change her family's fortune. She encounters an assorted cast of characters and magical creatures along the way, including a dragon who accompanies her on her quest for the ultimate answer.

Plot Outline


Rules

Twelve-year-old Catherine just wants a normal life. Which is near impossible when you have a brother with autism and a family that revolves around his disability. She's spent years trying to teach David the rules—from "a peach is not a funny-looking apple" to "keep your pants on in public"—in order to stop his embarrassing behaviors. But the summer Catherine meets Jason, a paraplegic boy, and Kristi, the next-door friend she's always wished for, it's her own shocking behavior that turns everything upside down and forces her to ask: What is normal?

 

The Candymakers

Four children have been chosen to compete in a national competition to find the tastiest confection in the country. Who will invent a candy more delicious than the Oozing Crunchorama or the Neon Lightning Chew?

Logan, the Candymaker's son, who can detect the color of chocolate by touch alone?

Miles, the boy who is allergic to merry-go-rounds and the color pink?

Daisey, the cheerful girl who can lift a fifty-pound lump of taffy like it's a feather?

Or Philip, the suit-and-tie wearing boy who's always scribbling in a secret notebook?

This sweet, charming, and cleverly crafted story, told from each contestant's perspective, is filled with mystery, friendship, and juicy revelations.

 

Wish

Eleven-year-old Charlie Reese has been making the same secret wish every day since fourth grade. She even has a list of all the ways there are to make the wish, such as cutting off the pointed end of a slice of pie and wishing on it as she takes the last bite. But when she is sent to the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina to live with family she barely knows, it seems unlikely that her wish will ever come true. That is until she meets Wishbone, a skinny stray dog who captures her heart, and Howard, a neighbor boy who proves surprising in lots of ways. Suddenly Charlie is in serious danger of discovering that what she thought she wanted may not be what she needs at all.

 

Hatchet

Eleven-year-old Charlie Reese has been making the same secret wish every day since fourth grade. She even has a list of all the ways there are to make the wish, such as cutting off the pointed end of a slice of pie and wishing on it as she takes the last bite. But when she is sent to the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina to live with family she barely knows, it seems unlikely that her wish will ever come true. That is until she meets Wishbone, a skinny stray dog who captures her heart, and Howard, a neighbor boy who proves surprising in lots of ways. Suddenly Charlie is in serious danger of discovering that what she thought she wanted may not be what she needs at all.

 

Pax

Pax was only a kit when his family was killed, and “his boy” Peter rescued him from abandonment and certain death. Now the war front approaches, and when Peter’s father enlists, Peter has to move in with his grandpa. Far worse than being forced to leave home is the fact that Pax can’t go. Peter listens to his stern father—as he usually does—and throws Pax’s favorite toy soldier into the woods. When the fox runs to retrieve it, Peter and his dad get back in the car and leave him there—alone. But before Peter makes it through even one night under his grandfather’s roof, regret and duty spur him to action; he packs for a trek to get his best friend back and sneaks into the night. This is the story of Peter, Pax, and their independent struggles to return to one another against all odds. Told from the alternating viewpoints of Peter and Pax.

 

The Hero Two Doors Down

Steven Satlow is an eight-year-old boy living in Brooklyn, New York, which means he only cares about one thing — the Dodgers. Steve's love for the baseball team is passed down to him from his father. The two of them spend hours reading the sports pages and listening to games on the radio. Aside from an occasional run-in with his teacher, life is pretty simple for Steve. But then Steve hears a rumor that an African American family is moving to his all-Jewish neighborhood. It's 1948 and some of his neighbors are against it. Steve knows that this is wrong. His hero, Jackie Robinson, broke the color barrier in baseball the year before. Then it happens — Steve's new neighbor is Jackie Robinson! Steve is beyond excited about living two doors down from the Robinson family. He can't wait to meet Jackie. This is going to be the best baseball season yet! How many kids ever get to become friends with their hero?

 

Walls Within Walls

After their father, a video-game inventor, strikes it rich, the Smithfork kids find they hate their new life. They move from their cozy Brooklyn neighborhood to a swanky apartment on Manhattan's Fifth Avenue. They have no friends, a nanny who takes the place of their parents, and a school year looming ahead that promises to be miserable.

And then, one day, Brid, CJ, and Patrick discover an astonishing secret about their apartment: The original owner, the deceased multimillionaire Mr. Post, long ago turned the apartment itself into a giant puzzle containing a mysterious book and hidden panels--a puzzle that, with some luck, courage, and brainpower, will lead to discovering the Post family fortune. Unraveling the mystery causes them to race through today's New York City--and to uncover some long-hidden secrets of the past.