West Yadkin Elementary

Skip to main content
Mobile Menu
District Home
Battle of the Books » Book Summaries

Book Summaries

Book Summaries   
 

A Nest For Celeste

Celeste, a recently orphaned young mouse, lives under the floorboards in the dining room at the Pirrie plantation home near New Orleans. She watches and waits patiently until the coast is clear --- neither person nor animal within sight, sound, or smell --- and then she ventures onto the dining room floor to pick up crumbs and bits of food. Whether it is a scrap of bacon, a bit of biscuit, or a prized piecrust crumb, Celeste quickly gathers them all, places them in her tiny handwoven basket and scampers back to safety. Once again she has avoided the furtive cat, the huge dog and the humans. But two big bullying rats nip at her and steal most of her food. Life in the big house may be one of luxury for the human residents, but survival is a daily struggle for tiny Celeste.
 

Crenshaw

Jackson is tired of being poor and sometimes having to live in his car. He lives with his sister, his parents, and his dog, Aretha. He’s not only stressed about that, he also has to worry about being a fifth grader with an imaginary friend. Not just an ordinary imaginary friend, but an odd one… a silly one, that Jackson keeps finding in the bathtub. Crenshaw is a huge tabby cat, who loves purple jelly beans. But Jackson just moves on with life ignoring the fit state of having an imaginary friend. Jackson is feeling annoyed and thinks that his parents aren’t telling him everything he wants to know: Jackson wonders why they keep fighting, why the landlord keeps making visits to their tiny apartment, and he even wonders when his so called imaginary friend will just leave him alone. They go back to living in the car; then again they save enough money to live in another tiny apartment. Journey through this touching story of how Jackson learns how important it is to have a loving, trusting friend.

 

Fish in a Tree

Ally has been smart enough to fool a lot of smart people. Every time she lands in a new school, she is able to hide her inability to read by creating clever yet disruptive distractions.  She is afraid to ask for help; after all, how can you cure dumb? However, her newest teacher Mr. Daniels sees the bright, creative kid underneath the trouble maker. With his help, Ally learns not to be so hard on herself and that dyslexia is nothing to be ashamed of. As her confidence grows, Ally feels free to be herself and the world starts opening up with possibilities. She discovers that there’s a lot more to her—and to everyone—than a label, and that great minds don’t always think alike.

 

Front Desk

A small room behind the office of the Calivista Motel is home for Mia and her parents. Hired by the rich, coal-hearted Mr. Yao, the family works bone-numbing hours cleaning rooms, fixing problems, and managing the front desk. Troubles check in from every direction: at home, where her mom belittles her love of writing; at school, where bullies and lies surround her; and especially at the motel, where the family battles financial ruin. Yet along the seemingly endless roller coaster of poverty, hope appears in small places. Debut author Yang weaves in autobiographical content while creating a feisty and empowered heroine. The supporting characters are rich in voice and context, with multiple villains and friends that achingly reveal life in America in the 1990s for persons of color and those living in poverty. Heavy themes, including extortion, fraud, and racism, are balanced with the naïve dreams and determination of a 10-year-old. The power of Mia’s newfound skill in English pushes her to fight for her community, which has lovingly become her adopted family in this new land.

The Great Treehouse War

Winnie’s last day of fourth grade ended with a pretty life-changing surprise. That was the day Winnie’s parents got divorced, the day they decided that Winnie would live three days a week with each of them and spend Wednesdays by herself in a treehouse smack between their houses, to divide her time perfectly evenly between them. It was the day Winnie’s seed of frustration with her parents was planted, a seed that grew and grew until it felt like it was as big as a tree itself.

 

By the end of fifth grade, Winnie decides that the only way to change things is to barricade herself in her treehouse until her parents come to their senses—and her friends decide to join her. It’s kids versus grown-ups, and no one wants to back down first. But with ten kids in one treehouse, all with their own demands, Winnie discovers that things can get pretty complicated pretty fast! (Even if they are having the most epic slumber party ever.)

Winnie’s last day of fourth grade ended with a pretty life-changing surprise. That was the day Winnie’s parents got divorced, the day they decided that Winnie would live three days a week with each of them and spend Wednesdays by herself in a treehouse smack between their houses, to divide her time perfectly evenly between them. It was the day Winnie’s seed of frustration with her parents was planted, a seed that grew and grew until it felt like it was as big as a tree itself.

 

By the end of fifth grade, Winnie decides that the only way to change things is to barricade herself in her treehouse until her parents come to their senses—and her friends decide to join her. It’s kids versus grown-ups, and no one wants to back down first. But with ten kids in one treehouse, all with their own demands, Winnie discovers that things can get pretty complicated pretty fast! (Even if they are having the most epic slumber party ever.)

 

Greetings From Nowhere

Aggie isn't expecting visitors at the Sleepy Time Motel in the Great Smoky Mountains. Since her husband died, she is all alone with her cat, Ugly, and keeping up with the bills and repairs has become next to impossible. The pool is empty, the garden is overgrown, and not a soul has come to stay in nearly three months. When she reluctantly places a For Sale ad in the newspaper, Aggie doesn't know that Kirby and his mom will need a room when their breaks down on the way to Kirby's new reform school. Or that Loretta and her parents will arrive in her dad's plumbing company van on a trip meant to honor the memory of Loretta's birth mother. Or that Clyde Dover will answer the For Sale ad in such a hurry and move in with his daughter, Willow, looking for a brand-new life to replace the one that was fractured when Willow's mom left. Perhaps the biggest surprise of all is that Aggie and her guests find just the friend they need at the shabby motel in the middle of nowhere.

The Key To Extraordinary

Emma Pearl is waiting for one extraordinary thing: her Destiny Dream. Dreamt by each of her female ancestors and recorded in the Book of Days, this dream leads each woman to her lifelong destiny. Emma is desperate for her dream, so that she can begin fulfilling the promise she made to her mother before she died.

Emma’s world is filled with more than just dreams, however. Her grandmother’s café, attached to her home and situated right next to her town’s famous and historical cemetery, is under attack from a big-city developer. When Emma’s Destiny Dream, confusing as it is, points her in a direction that could save the café, she knows that she must fulfill her destiny, no matter the cost.

The Last Musketeer

Greg is none too pleased to be in Paris with his folks as they sell off family heirlooms. Among their belongings is a magical crystal that, when nabbed by a villainous thief, whisks them into the distant past. Suddenly in 17th-century Paris, Greg’s parents are imprisoned in the La Mort Triste and sentenced to die. Greg has only a few days to save them. He elicits the help of three teenage boys: Aramis, Porthos and Athos, each keen for the adventure. As the boys wend their way through the fetid streets of medieval Paris with the king’s guards always on their heels, they endure death-defying battles and swordfights on horseback, chandeliers and ledges. With the past and the present entwining in dizzying tangles of who’s who and what’s what, Gibbs weaves in historical facts about Paris as well as atmospheric tidbits about rats, bed bugs and the lack of toilets and pockets in pants. Greg, now referred to as D’Artagnon, eventually deduces his role in this group, but it’s going to take more than wishful thinking to get him and his parents back home—or is Paris home?   


The League of Seven

 

In an alternate 1875 America electricity is forbidden, Native Americans and Yankees are united, and eldritch evil lurks in the shadows. Young Archie Dent knows there really are monsters in the world. His parents are members of the Septemberist Society, whose job it is to protect humanity from hideous giants called the Mangleborn. Trapped in underground prisons for a thousand years, the giant monsters have been all but forgotten—but now they are rising again as the steam-driven America of 1875 rediscovers electricity, the lifeblood of the Mangleborn. When his parents and the rest of the Septemberists are brainwashed by one of the evil creatures, Archie must assemble a team of seven young heroes to save the world.

 

The Mostly True Adventures of Homer P. Figg

The year is 1863 and 12-year-old Homer P. Figg and his older brother Harold are living with their ornery uncle Squinton Leach in Pine Swamp, Maine. Uncle Squint mistreats both boys by over working and underfeeding them. In order to punish Harold and Homer (and to make money for himself), Squint illegally sells Harold to the U.S. Army, even though Harold is two years younger than the legal military age. Homer runs away from the farm to rescue his brother, and along the way he meets a variety of larger-than-life characters. While on his journey, Homer finds himself in the midst of several adventures: he helps runaway slaves by tricking the slave catchers; he rides on a train and a steamship for the first time; he is featured as an attraction (“PigBoy”) while traveling with a Medicine Show; he is accused of being a spy and escapes with a hot-air balloon; he is captured by the Confederate army, and finally ends up in the middle of the Battle of Gettysburg. In the end, he rescues his brother by shooting him, and both boys are taken in by the kindly Brewster family

 

Smack Dab in the Middle of Maybe

When Ariana “Cricket” Overland learns that her Aunt Belinda is sending her to live with her Great-Aunt Genevieve (nicknamed GAG), it is the final straw. Cricket is already mourning for her father, still missing her grandmother and unsure where her mother is at all. Though living with Aunt Belinda and her two rowdy cousins is far from ideal, being sent to live with GAG feels like a betrayal. So, when Cricket is forgotten at the grocery store on the day of the February Firehouse Jubilee Fish Fry, she decides not to go back to Belinda’s and instead takes some “Woods Time” and waits for her mother to return on the day her own mother’s headstone is erected. 

 

Smells Like Dog

Twelve-year-old Homer Pudding lives on a goat farm but dreams of growing up to be a great treasure hunter like his uncle, Drake Pudding. Drake spent most of his career searching for the greatest mass of loot collected by another great treasure hunter, the late Rumpold Smeller. When Drake dies under mysterious circumstances, he bequeaths a sad-eyed basset hound named Dog to Homer. Attached to Dog’s collar is a coin etched with the letters L.O.S.T. As Homer races to decipher the meaning of L.O.S.T., find Smeller’s treasure and locate the whereabouts of Drake’s vast library, he discovers a valuable secret about Dog. Along the way, Homer encounters the devious Madame la Directeur, the pink-haired homeless girl Lorelei, Ajitabh, the inventor of the cloudcopter, and other equally memorable characters who help or hinder his quest.

 

Tuesdays at the Castle

Tuesdays at Castle Glower are Princess Celie's favorite days. That's because on Tuesdays the Castle adds a new room, a turret, or sometimes even an entire wing. No one ever knows what the Castle will do next, and no one --- other than Celie, that is --- takes the time to map out the new additions. But when King and Queen Glower are ambushed and their fate is unknown, it's up to Celie, with her secret knowledge of the castle's never-ending twists and turns, to protect their home and save their kingdom.

 

Ungifted

 eighth-grader Donovan Curtis is a reckless boy with “poor impulse control,” whose classmates have voted him “Most Likely to Wind Up in Jail.” After Donovan’s gift for chaos causes an especially costly accident at school, a paperwork mix-up sees him transferred to his town’s Academy for Scholastic Distinction, instead of being expelled. Donovan is woefully out of place among the ASD’s young geniuses and scholars, but his normality proves something his new classmates desperately need: as he grows academically, the gifted kids grow socially just from being around him. Donovan, his classmates, and his teachers take turns narrating, and while Korman uses basic archetypes to start (from Donovan’s goofball friends at his old school to the awkward nerds at the ASD), he gradually humanizes each of them, revealing them as complex, changing, and surprising individuals. As Donovan’s classmate Chloe puts it, “The whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Especially if one of those parts is Donovan.” 

 

Woods Runner

In the wild frontier of Bristish Pennsylvania, 13-year-old Samuel is a "woods runner," or someone who hunts food for his entire settlement. Growing up sheltered by his gentle parents, Samuel feels far from the American patriot war they have barely heard about -- until his village is attacked and burned, leaving neighbors murdered and his parents kidnapped by Iroquois and British Redcoats. Armed with only a knife and a rifle, Samuel uses his forest skills to track the kidnappers. When he learns that his parents, as prisoners of war, are being taken to New York, Samuel sets out into enemy territory.