Books You May Be Interested In

Check out choices at the Oak Park Public Library.

FALLEN ANGELS by Walter Dean Myers

"Seventeen-year-old Richie Perry, just out of his Harlem high school, enlists in the Army in the summer of 1967 and spends a devastating year on active duty in Vietnam."

This is so good, astounding actually, a modern day All Quiet on the Western Front. Myers is a master of dialogue and plot. The characters are real and complex. The action is breathtaking. The questions of morality are not presented in black and white, except for the atrocities of war and the value of friendship. Often I have students who ask for war books. This should be top on the list





Science Fiction, Genetic Engineering, Adventure. " After the mutant Erasers abduct the youngest member of their group, the "birdkids," who are the result of genetic experimentation, take off in pursuit and find themselves struggling to understand their own origins and purpose."

Horn Book (Spring 2006)
"Max Ride and five other human-avian genetic hybrids fly (literally) from the lab where they were created as experiments and forge a new life in hiding. When six-year-old Angel is captured, Max leads her makeshift family in a rescue attempt, raising questions about their origins and destiny. Smart-mouthed, sympathetic characters and copious butt-kicking make this fast read pure escapist pleasure."

This is the first of five books in the Maximum Ride series (The fifth is due March 2009). Absolute must for middle school collections. Patterson combines his talent for creating great plots, quick-witted dialogue, and entertaining character portrayals that tug at your heart. Thank you, James Patterson.

LIFE (IN THE CARDS) by Mariah Fredericks

"School Library Journal (August 1, 2008)
Gr 5-8-In this third offering in the series, Syd tells her story. She is often in the shadow of her friends Anna and Eve, each of whom starred in a previous book. Their stories revolved around tarot-card readings that seem to have come true. Syd, always reluctant to do a reading, finally does, but her cards foretell death and disaster, which frighteningly parallel her temperamental father's worsening alcoholism and career problems... Messages are positive while realistic, and the target audience will be glad to see how Syd plays the hand she is dealt. The books are best read in order.-Suzanne Gordon, Peachtree Ridge High School, Suwanee, GA Copyright 2008 Reed Business Information."

Well... I did not read the series in the proper order; this was my first Fredericks novel, but I thoroughly enjoyed it. I don't understand Meg Cabot's cover blurb: "...will have readers rolling on the floor laughing...." Life does have its funny moments, but the overall story is one of a girl dealing with some heavy family issues. This is well done realistic fiction with a positive message that will appeal to mainstream readers. Excellent middle school choice.

TWISTED BY Laurie Halse Anderson

2007. Family problems, high school, friendship, bullying "After finally getting noticed by someone other than school bullies and his ever-angry father, seventeen-year-old Tyler enjoys his tough new reputation and the attentions of a popular girl, but when life starts to go bad again, he must choose between transforming himself or giving in to his destructive thoughts."


CHAINS by Laurie Halse Anderson

2008. Historical Fiction, Slavery, New York, American Revolution. "After being sold to a cruel couple in New York City, a slave named Isabel spies for the rebels during the Revolutionary War."

This talented author revisits historical fiction (Fever 1793) in a vivid portrayal of a young girl's tormented life in slavery. The politics, military tactics and daily life in New York during this time period are portrayed through high action and intrigue. Fair warning: notwithstanding the triumph of human spirit, this story illustrates starkly the pain and evil of slavery.

TROUBLE by Gary Schmidt

Horn Book (May/June, 2008)
" 'If you build your house far enough from Trouble, then Trouble will never find you.' Such is the credo of the fortunate Smith family of Blythbury-by-the-Sea, a (fictional) WASP-y outpost of Boston. But when Trouble arrives, it just keeps on coming. First, oldest son Franklin lies in a coma after being hit by a car; a young Cambodian immigrant is identified as the driver. Daughter Louisa, hugely distraught, retreats to her bedroom, and fourteen-year-old Henry is left on his own. With the newly adopted Black Dog, whom he's rescued from the sea, Henry sets off to climb Maine's Mt. Katahdin (as he and Franklin had planned to do together) and is joined by unexpected companions. Schmidt embarks on a road trip that limns the growing friendship of three unforgettable boys -- Henry; his honest, aggravating best friend Sanborn; and the accused Cambodian boy, Chay Chuan. A host of coincidences strains credulity at times but also allows for an extraordinary breadth, widening themes and resolving plot lines. Like Chaucer's pilgrims, Henry, Chay, and Louisa all have to find their way to grace. The accident that brings trouble to Henry and his family also brings self-realization and the uncomfortable knowledge that both Henry's idolized brother and the vaunted history of the Smith family are not what they seem. Along with the pivotal role played by the enthusiastic Black Dog, rich secondary characters enhance a 1970s-set story that adds much to the discussion of how tragedy and racism affect individuals, families, and whole communities.' (

Many issues that would be excellent classroom discussion topics are raised in this book. Racism, immigration, honor, honesty, kindness, and courage are some of the themes running through this thoughtful book, which is lightened with humorous exchanges between friends. A slow beginning, but satisfying once the stage is set.


Mystery. "A high school senior is convinced her friend Barry did not commit suicide but was a murder victim, and she endangers her own life to prove it."

Jean Lowery Nixon is a great bet for middle school mysteries. She moves the plot along at a fast clip and keeps the story a manageable length. The culprit was easily guessed, but I was pulled in enough to want to 'scream' at Marti that she was the next target. A fun scary read.


Grades 5-8 "When her parents die of the influenza ravaging British East Africa, Rachel fears that she will have to enter an orphanage. Here the plot departs from the expected, and Rachel's life becomes very complicated. Through her sympathetic narrator, Whelan gives readers a glimpse of life in post-WWI colonial Africa. Melodramatic plot twists and a complex main character add up to a satisfying, old-fashioned tale." (Hornbook Starred 2006)

Great plot and lots of Girl Power. Rachel is a positive, inspiring role model.