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Book Summaries

Book Summaries   
 

At the Bottom of the World

In the series opener, JACK AND THE GENIUSES: At The Bottom of The World, readers meet Jack and his foster siblings, Ava and Matt, who are orphans. But they’re not your typical kind of orphans --- they’re geniuses. Well, Ava and Matt are, which sometimes makes life difficult for 1 twelve-year-old Jack. Ava speaks multiple languages and builds robots for fun, and Matt is into astronomy and a whiz at math. As for Jack, it’s hard to stand out when he’s surrounded by geniuses all the time.
 
When the kids try to spy on Dr. Hank Witherspoon, one of the world’s leading scientists, they end up working for him in his incredible laboratory. Soon, Hank and the kids travel to Antarctica for a prestigious science competition, but they find that all is not as it seems: A fellow scientist has gone missing, and so has any trace of her research. Could someone be trying to use her findings to win the contest? It’s up to Jack, Ava, and Matt to find the missing scientist and discover who’s behind it all --- before it’s too late.
 

Ban This Book

In Ban This Book by Alan Gratz, a fourth grader fights back when From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E. L. Konigsburg is challenged by a well-meaning parent and taken off the shelves of her school library. Amy Anne is shy and soft-spoken, but don’t mess with her when it comes to her favorite book in the whole world. Amy Anne and her lieutenants wage a battle for the books that will make you laugh and pump your fists as they start a secret banned books locker library, make up ridiculous reasons to ban every single book in the library to make a point, and take a stand against censorship.

 

Becoming Naomi Leon

Naomi Soledad León Outlaw has a lot of problems to deal with in her young life — including the “funniest last name in the universe.” She and her brother Owen have lived with their great grandmother, Gram, at Avocado Acres Trailer Rancho in California for the last seven years. Naomi worries a lot and has difficulty speaking up. When the mother who abandoned her suddenly shows up at Gram’s trailer, Naomi is caught up in a whirlwind of challenges and changes.

Gram, Naomi, and Owen set off on a journey to Mexico to discover the children’s long-lost father, Santiago Leon. Finding her father and participating in a radish-carving festival help Naomi understand her Leon heritage and develop her own strength and determination.

By the end of the book, Naomi faces a test that could result in the end of her happy existence with Gram and Owen. She finds the courage to become who she is meant to be — Naomi León, or Naomi the lioness.

 

Blood on the River

Twelve-year-old Samuel Collier is a lowly commoner on the streets of London. So when he becomes the page of Captain John Smith and boards the Susan Constant, bound for the New World, he can t believe his good fortune. He's heard that gold washes ashore with every tide. But beginning with the stormy journey and his first contact with the native people, he realizes that the New World is nothing like he imagined.

The lush Virginia shore where they establish the colony of James Town is both beautiful and forbidding, and it's hard to know who is a friend and who's a foe. As he learns the language of the Algonquian Indians and observes Captain Smith's wise diplomacy, Samuel begins to see that he can be whomever he wants to be in this new land.

Found

Jonah Skidmore feels like an ordinary thirteen-year-old boy. His family consists of a slightly annoying but smart younger sister named Katherine and a mom and dad who love him unconditionally. Jonah is adopted and has known this fact for a while but it’s never been a big deal for him because his parents have always been open about it to him. Life definitely feels normal for Jonah. That is, until the mysterious letter arrives--the letter that contains just six words: YOU ARE ONE OF THE MISSING. The letter does not contain a signature or a return address. Who sent it? Where did it come from? What does it mean?

Jonah at first believes it to be a prank. But when his friend Chip Winston receives the exact same letter they begin to question it. After some digging around, Chip discovers that, he, too, is adopted and the fact that they are both adopted is tied to why they both received the mysterious notes. Through the help of Jonah’s sister Katherine, Jonah and Chip learn that the notes are linked to the strange and shifty circumstances that surround both Jonah’s and Chip’s adoptions. The three of them embark on a journey to get to the bottom of this mystery that ends up involving an airplane that materializes out of thin air, a huge smuggling operation, and the FBI. What they find is a mind-boggling conspiracy that propels them into a whirlwind of an adventure through time. Who are they? Where did they come from? Or, rather, when did they come from?

The Fourteenth Goldfish

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.  

How To Steal a Dog

Half of me was thinking, Georgina, don't do this. Stealing a dog is just plain wrong. The other half of me was thinking, Georgina, you're in a bad fix and you got to do whatever it takes to get yourself out of it.

Georgina Hayes is desperate. Ever since her father left and they were evicted from their apartment, her family has been living in their car. With her mama juggling two jobs and trying to make enough money to find a place to live, Georgina is stuck looking after her younger brother, Toby. And she has her heart set on improving their situation. When Georgina spots a missing-dog poster with a reward of five hundred dollars, the solution to all her problems suddenly seems within reach. All she has to do is "borrow" the right dog and its owners are sure to offer a reward. What happens next is the last thing she expected.

The Old Willis Place

Diana and her little brother Georgie have been living in the woods behind the old Willis place, a decaying Victorian mansion, for what already seems like forever. They aren’t allowed to leave the property or show themselves to anyone. But when a new caretaker comes to live there with his young daughter, Lissa, Diana is tempted to break the mysterious rules they live by and reveal herself so she can finally have a friend. Somehow, Diana must get Lissa’s help if she and Georgie ever hope to release themselves from the secret that has bound them to the old Willis place for so long. 


Rain Reign

Rose has a diagnosis of Asperger’s, and her world of comforting homonyms, rules and prime numbers is repeatedly challenged by social interactions of which she has no innate understanding. Newbery Honor author Martin crafts a skillful tale that engages readers’ sympathy for everyone portrayed in the story, even Rose’s garage-mechanic, hard-drinking single father. He has given Rose a stray dog he found after an evening of drinking at the local bar, and Rose names her Rain. Through touching and funny scenes at school—where Rose has an aide but is in a regular classroom—and discomfiting scenes at home, readers come to understand how Rose’s close relationship to Rain anchors her. But Rain goes missing during a storm, and when, with the help of her sympathetic uncle, Rose finds her dog weeks later, she is told that Rain was microchipped and actually belongs to someone else. Since following rules is vital to Rose, she must find Rain’s original owners and give her dog back. 

 

Ruby Holler

The trouble twins, Dallas and Florida, are given the opportunity to take a three-month vacation from the horrible orphanage that has been home. An elderly couple, Sairy and Tiller of Ruby Holler, wants help. Tiller would like to build a boat and explore the river Rutabago with Florida, while Sairy dreams of visiting far-off Kangadoon to see a red-tailed rocking bird, but needs Dallas’s assistance. Dreamy Dallas and Feisty Florida have always counted on each other and dread parting. As the twins naturally strew trouble wherever they go, they also reveal the horrors of their past—but gradually, all four characters draw together. The charm of Sairy’s acceptance of whatever awful thing the twins do is matched by her desire to see what she’s like when Tiller isn’t there. Despite ominous signs that the separation of both pairs may be dire, they persist. Adding tension, Mr. and Mrs. Trepid, who run the nursing home, hire Z (their only Ruby Holler neighbor) to discover the buried funds that will finance the upcoming expeditions. Tiller, is a grumbler, but it only hides his soft heart. Dallas and Florida both have a hard time believing that anywhere in the universe can be as wonderful as Ruby Holler, and they try to remain committed to their original plan to catch the freight train and escape. Various tidbits about the origins of the twins tumble into the plot in haphazard ways, developing that mystery. Such charm and humor is encapsulated in this romp with its melodramatic elements of treasure and orphans, that it feels perfectly reasonable to want it to go on and see what happens next. 

 

Runaway Twin

A runaway teen travels from Nebraska to Washington searching for the twin sister she’s been separated from for ten years. Haunted by memories of her sister, 13-year-old Sunny decides it’s time to start looking when she stumbles upon an abandoned bag of money. A veteran of seven foster-care placements, Sunny doesn’t want to leave her current home with Rita, who gives her space, makes her laugh and lets her choose clothes, books and music. Propelled by her dream of finding her sister, though, Sunny carefully escapes by bus, but she isn’t prepared for the homeless dog, the bullies or the tornado she encounters en route. Nor is she prepared for what her search reveals.

 

Save Me A Seat

Just arrived from Bangalore, Ravi Suryanarayanan is eager to make friends at his new American school. When he spots Dillon Samreen, a popular, cool classmate with swoopy bangs and a big smile, Ravi believes the two could become great friends. Even if Dillon is an ABCD—American-Born Confused Desi—another name for U.S.–born children of Indian immigrants, Ravi believes catching Dillon’s attention will take him from the lame table in the cafeteria to where the popular kids eat. Meanwhile, all white Joe Sylvester wants is not to catch the attention of Dillon Samreen. Joe is large and awkward and completely aware of how Dillon can smile at you one minute then torture you forever and ever. When Ravi, Joe, and Dillon wind up in Mrs. Beam’s class, the trio are on a collision course that will end with the unlikeliest of friendships. 

 

A Snicker Of Magic

Midnight Gulch used to be a magical place, a town where people could sing up thunderstorms and dance up sunflowers. But that was long ago, before a curse drove the magic away. Twelve-year-old Felicity knows all about things like that; her nomadic mother is cursed with a wandering heart. 

But when she arrives in Midnight Gulch, Felicity thinks her luck's about to change. A "word collector," Felicity sees words everywhere - shining above strangers, tucked into church eves, and tangled up her dog's floppy ears - but Midnight Gulch is the first place she's ever seen the word "home." And then there's Jonah, a mysterious, spiky-haired do-gooder who shimmers with words Felicity's never seen before, words that make Felicity's heart beat a little faster. 

Felicity wants to stay in Midnight Gulch more than anything, but first, she'll need to figure out how to bring back the magic, breaking the spell that's been cast over the town...and her mother's broken heart.

 

Stella By Starlight

Stella lives in the segregated South—in Bumblebee, North Carolina, to be exact about it. Some stores she can go into. Some stores she can’t. Some folks are right pleasant. Others are a lot less so. To Stella, it sort of evens out, and heck, the Klan hasn’t bothered them for years. But one late night, later than she should ever be up, much less wandering around outside, Stella and her little brother see something they’re never supposed to see, something that is the first flicker of change to come, unwelcome change by any stretch of the imagination. As Stella’s community—her world—is upended, she decides to fight fire with fire. And she learns that ashes don’t necessarily signify an end.

 

A Wrinkle In Time

Thirteen-year-old Meg Murry is a smart girl, but who gets into trouble at school.  She excels at math, but not in the way her teachers want her to do the work.  She lives with her mother (a scientist) and her five-year-old brother Charles Wallace is a prodigy.  Her father (also a scientist) has been on a mysterious scientific mission for quite some time and Meg’s not sure when he’s coming back.  They encounter their eccentric new neighbor Mrs. Whatsit, who it soon turns out is a creature from another planet, one of a trio that are nearby. Mrs. Whatsit knows where Meg’s father is, and she knows that he’s in trouble.  Together with the neighbor boy Calvin they set out with Mrs. Whatsit and her friends to transport themselves to another planet and save Mr. Murry.