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Philip Pullman takes a new tack and comes up a winner. Off of a London East End street there is a close and on that close live a faithful group of friends. Led by Thunderbolt Dobney and a whirlwind of chaos and brilliance by the name of Benny Kaminsky, these kids make up for their empty pockets with the riches of imagination. Trying to get an homemade waxwork of their favorite hot chestnut seller into the wax museum is all in an afternoons work. Ferreting out a gang of currency forgers takes just a little bit longer. These kids are direct descendants of  “the Baker Street Irregulars” by way of “Emil and the Detectives.” Love Pullman as I do, I wasn’t expecting this wonderful romp from the man who gave me “His Dark Materials.” Still, his matchless storytelling and really funny prose shine like stars.
Perfect for the 3rd - 6th grade boy or girl in your house.

--Reviewed by Elizabeth from Books Inc. Alameda

A teenage girl who is sent away to boarding school after the death of her father chronicles her junior year in a leather-bound journal. She is obsessed with her roommate Lucy, who is in turn obsessed with Ernessa, the new girl across the hall. It quickly becomes apparent that there is something very odd about Ernessa, and Lucy begins to behave strangely as well, and then falls mysteriously ill. Our nameless narrator soon comes to believe that Ernessa is a vampire, which is never conclusively proven nor mis-proven. Is she? Or is it the fevered adolescent imaginings of the narrator?

For the vampire aficionado who is looking for something a more substantial than Twilight, ages 13+.

 --Lori From Books Inc. Palo Alto

I learned a valuable lesson reading Viorst's story.  At first, Lulu is impossible.  She gets exactly what she wants from her parents.  When she doesn't, she throws shrill tantrums loud enough to break light bulbs.  Since it's her birthday, she wants a brontosaurus as a pet.  Her parents say "no."  Determined to find her birthday present, she runs away from home into a forest where her birthday wish takes an unexpected turn.  As Viorst teaches us in her delightful tale, we should be careful for what we wish for--we just may get it!  Along with Lane Smith's dazzling art, this story is full of surprises, a singable song, and three possible endings.  Which one is your favorite? (Ages 4-8) --Jaime from Books Inc. Castro

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 "I loved this book. I would recommend it to people who liked, "Diary of a Wimpy Kid." I liked that the book was about the ordinary life of Tad, and that he wrote a little bit every day (mostly), over a whole year.

The book was kind of silly and funny at the same time. I thought that it was fun to read about a kid in middle school. Planet Tad is definitely one of my new favorites. I hope that there will be another book after this one. I can't wait to see what happens next!" ~Trever age 9

The Amazing Adventures of John Smith Jr, aka Houdini
by Peter Johnson

John Smith Jr, known to his friends as Houdini because of his love of magic, is a 13-year-old boy growing up in a rough neighborhood outside of Providence, Rhode Island.  Growing up is painful- especially when you have a cantankerous Vietnam Vet as a neighbor, a bully who won’t let you be, and a brother missing in Iraq.  Inspired by an author visiting his school, John decides to write his first novel.  He views his world, one cracked and flawed block at a time.  And as he describes his world, he slowly lays out a plan on how he, and hopefully his friends, can make the great escape-  just like his hero, Houdini.


This book will be an inspiration to any middle grade reader who is feeling the growing pains in the worst way.  It gripped me from the first sentence to the closing sentence.  It is, without a doubt, the most authentic child's voice I have read since Catcher in the Rye.  A lot of adults try to sound like children in their writing- Peter Johnson succeeds.  Don't be put off by the cover- it looks very young.  But this book is definitely not intended for young readers.  I would say 12-13 year-olds would be the ideal audience.
 
--Katherine from Books Inc. Laurel Village

Young Sherlock Holmes #1: Death Cloud

by Andrew Lane

A wonderful introduction to the character, Death Cloud goes back well before that fateful meeting between Holmes and Watson to see how Sherlock ticks. Sent to his mother’s relatives during the school holidays, Sherlock acquires a tutor who begins to train him not only to see, but also observe. There are lots of lovely touches to the original stories for those who know as well! A cracking mystery, engaging original characters and brisk prose add up to a worthy YA read for even the most disaffected youth. Ages 12 + --Reviewed by Steven of Books Inc. Palo Alto

 

 

On the small island of Thisby, each year in November they hosts The Scorpio Races. Men from the island ride capaill uisce, carnivorous horses that come from the sea. These horses are vicious, fast and almost impossible to control.  It isn’t unusual for men to be attacked, killed and eaten during training. Due to bad family fortune, this year’s race will see its first female rider Puck Connolly . Sean Kendrick is the returning champion, and one of the few trainers who has some control over the capill uisce. Neither one is prepared for the friendship that comes during training, too bad only one of them can win the race. 

Having never read one of Stefvater's books, I was pleasantly surprised with how great this was. I was hooked in by the characters and the capaill uisce. Told in alternating voices between Puck and Sean, you get insight into what motivates both characters to participate in a potentially deadly race. The way this story is written you really feel like you can take a boat to Thisby and watch these gory races; this is magic realism at its best. Another high point for me is the friendship between Sean and Puck. It is clear that there is a mutual love interest brewing but it has its foundation in a strong friendship.  Don’t be fooled by the cover, this book is accessible to both guys and girls.

 --Shani 

 

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