Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children

Miss Peregrine’s Home
for Peculiar Children
by Ransom Riggs

 girl portrait black and white book cover

BIBLIO: 2011, Quirk Books, Ages 14 to 18.
REVIEWER: Gwen Harter.
FORMAT: Young Adult book
ISBN: 978-1594746031

This exceptional fantasy story starts in Florida. Typical sixteen year old Jacob works at his family business, Smart Aid, killing his time and trying to get fired. In general an antisocial person Jacob is closest with his Grandpa Abe Portman. In his childhood Grandpa would tell him stories about peculiar children with unique talents that lived in an idyllic home overseen by the Bird. He would show pictures to Jacob and also describe these terrible monsters that were dangerous and sought out himself and the peculiar children. Jacob eager to believe in childhood dismissed all of this as fairytales in adolescence and the monsters as symbolic of his grandfather’s troubled past, being of Jewish heritage during WWII. His world is turned upside down when his grandfather calls frantically at his work, leaving to check up on him Jacob is startled to find the elderly man in the wood all sliced up and the disgusting creatures from his childhood only a few feet away. His grandfather’s last words continue to haunt Jacob and all of his family thought he is insane. Seeing many doctors without much use Jacob discovers a clue in a book that his aunt found at Grandpa’s house. Embarking on a journey to Cairnholm with his father Jacob begins to quickly discover his secretive grandfather’s past. Everything he was told is true! After searching the abandoned house he finds a trail of clues that lead him to a portal to an alternate universe. This universe is a time loop and contains the home his grandfather told about with many of the exact same children. Immediately they take a liking to each other. Not long after though they are all in terrible danger from the monsters. Together they battle them off and save the home and their headmistress.
This book is highly recommended for girls from grades 9-12. It is a little slow to start but the witty wording makes it bearable. There are stunning, old fashioned photographs to accompany the story making it easy to picture the characters and adds another level of intrigue. All of the recommendations I had received before reading this book were proven to be accurate, this book is entertaining and sure to remain popular in the fantasy genre for many more years.

More titles in the Series:
Girl with hole book cover Boy with wings book cover

13 Reasons Why

Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher

teen on swing book cover

BIBLIO: 2007, Razorbill an Imprint of Penguin Books, Ages 14 and up.
REVIEWER: Gwen Harter.
FORMAT: Young Adult book
ISBN: 978-1595141880

Good books show you emotion. Great books make you feel that emotion. Th1rteen R3asons Why is a realistic fiction novel that delves into one of society’s biggest shames- suicide. Hannah Baker is an outcast in her new home, falsely labeled promiscuous and constantly ignored and ridiculed, bullied. Sick of all the negative attention she ends her life with a handful of pills, leaving town forever, but not without a bang. Hannah records thirteen stories for her suicide note, each tape talks about one person that ruins her life and how they connect to her decision. The tapes have two rules, 1. You have to listen to all of it and 2. You have to pass it on. If you refuse a second set of tapes will be released for the whole town to listen to; and most of the tapes contain deadly secrets. The book follows the main character, high school junior, Clay Jensen as he sinks into the suspenseful set of tapes that eventually give him closure. This book is stylistically genius never giving anything away prematurely and leaving the reader on the edge of their seat. The reader experiences personally this tragic occurrence through Clay’s first person internal narrative commenting on Hannah’s tapes and his intense emotions as he struggles to admit he is too late. I recommend this to any student that is struggling with similar situations either directly or with someone else. Based on the content and the high emotional value I would suggest that it be shared with 8th grade and up. It is only slightly biased towards girls and I think any student would enjoy this 2008 YALSA’s Quick Pick for Reluctant Readers selection. This book is a great discussion starter for bullying, rape, and fitting in in high school, and needs to be promoted everywhere.

One Green Apple

One Green Apple by Eve Bunting

Girl in apple orchard book cover

BIBLIO: 2006, Clarion Books, ages 4 to 11, $16.00.
REVIEWER: Gwen Harter.
FORMAT: Picture Book.
ISBN: 978-0-618-43477-0

Farah is a Muslim immigrant going on her first field trip on her second day of school. The plot is driven by her differences from her classmates. Namely, her cultural differences such as the dupatta and the girl-boy intermingling and her inability to speak English. The children are elementary school aged, possibly around the age of nine. They are going to the apple orchard to pick apples and symbolism is used when Farah picks a single green apple instead of a red one like her classmates’ apples.
Farah interacts with a few people in the story. She is befriended by Anna and Jim, who were not afraid to talk to her because she was not just the new student but also different from them. Unlike her classmates however, the teacher shows an alternate reaction, frustrating Farah with her oversimplified explanations because Farah knows she is intelligent but has no way to communicate this yet.
This book is great for young readers, especially in a classroom setting because it allows for deep conversations about morals. Children will appreciate this book for its colorful and detailed illustrations and the relatable characters. The artwork done by Ted Lewin accentuates the touching realities of this story.

Interview with Eve Bunting

Ender’s Game

Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card

Ender in a spacesuit book cover

BIBLIO: 1977 Tor/ Tom Doherty Associates LLC, ages 13 and up, $5.99.
REVIEWER: Gwen Harter.
​FORMAT: Chapter Book
ISBN: 978-0-7653-5070-2

Ender’s Game is a book set in the future on a very different Earth. The International Fleet trains children in the hopes to fend off the Buggers, an alien race that tried to invade twice before. The story follows the young genius Ender Wiggin as he goes through battle school and command school in space. There is a subplot that follows Valentine and Peter Wiggin as they influence politics on Earth. The plot cuts between the mind of Ender, conversations Colonel Graff and other adults, and the subplot of the other Wiggin children.
Ender struggles as an outsider, still managing to make friends along the way such as Alai, Bean, Petra, Dink, and others. He has to fight in battles and in simulations, winning every one along the way. The twist is that when he plays the simulator game Ender does not realize that he is actually controlling a real fleet. The reason being that Ender is empathetic but competitive and if he knew that is was really he would be crushed.
This book written well and great for students who want a challenge. It would also be great as a way to examining topics such as population, children soldiers, empathy, competitiveness, etc.

More titles in the Series:
spaceship book covertower book coverspace station book coverspaceship cover satellite book cover
The parallel series:
 two boys playing video game book cover boy and earth book cover white and red book cover two people and stars book coverrocks book cover

Shadows Alive (no cover available)

Double Dutch

Double Dutch by Sharon Draper

jump rope book cover

​BIBLIO: 2004 Aladdin Paperbacks/Simon& Schuster , ages 12 and up, $5.99.
REVIEWER: Gwen Harter.
​FORMAT: Chapter Book
ISBN: 978-689-84231-3

In a Cincinnati junior high Delia tries to live a normal life. She goes to her classes every day with her friends Yolanda, Charlene, Randy and Jesse, and the scary Tolliver twins Titan and Tabu. On the outside everything seems fine but two of them are hiding troublesome secrets.
Delia has somehow managed to keep it a secret throughout her school career that she is illiterate, due to a severe undiagnosed reading disability, unknown to everyone except Yolanda- the pathological liar with a good heart .She is smart and manages to fool her teachers by volunteering to do oral reports, watching the movie adaptations of books, and memorizing classroom discussions.Unfortunately it’s getting harder and harder to hide, especially as the state exams including reading and writing quickly approach.
Randy has been living on his own for almost two months after his truck driver dad disappears. Afraid to call the cops for help because he is worried about being put into foster care or having his dad charged with neglect forces Randy to act like the adult he isn’t quite yet; trying to pay bills and feed himself and his cat is a challenge that he bears alone.
Both of these kids find solace in the double dutch team where Delia, Yolanda, Charlene, and Misty compete while Randy helps Bomani, the coach, to prepare the girls as they train for the city competition, then states, then nationals.
The Tolliver twins cause a lot of tension in the school after appearing on a TV reality show where they act threatening and everybody fears they might harm the school. Though they never actively did anything wrong. No one expected that twisters would the the cause of destruction in the school and the turning point of the Tollivers’ reputation as they emerge as heroes after saving Yolanda after a long day of being trapped, undiscovered in the rubble.
Double Dutch is tense with excitement until the very end when the eighth grade team win the doubles section at the nationals and Randy discovers a paper in Delia’s bag. Since she couldn’t read she didn’t know that it was valuable positive information about his father.
In the end both have to confess their secrets, and both get help from those who care about them. This goes to show that hiding things never amounts to anything good and suffering through a disability alone, is never the only option.

Some Kind of Magic

Some Kind of Magic by Adrian Fogelin

shadows, book cover

BIBLIO: 2015,Atlanta: Peachtree Publishers, Ages 10 to 14, $15.95.
REVIEWER: Gwen Harter.
FORMAT: Middle Grade book
ISBN: 978-1-56145-820-2

Part crime-solving part coming of age, this novel features the four friends Justin, Cass, Jemmie, and Ben along with Ben’s kid brother Cody on their adventures as their last summer before high school kicks off to a boring start. Set in Tallahassee within a week countdown to Cody’s birthday, the story centers around the “magic hat” Cody finds that leads them to an abandoned shed on the site of a house fire that serves as their new secret hangout. A subplot of the novel is finding out what happened to the brothers’ Uncle Paul. It doesn’t take long for them to find out how the house fire, Uncle Paul, and the hat all connect. In the end Ben has an accident and Justin proves to be a hero as everything resolves. Teenage drama runs throughout the story with romance, family troubles, obesity, interracial friendships, and the uncertainty of a new school all being relatable to the reader. The novel does become very unrelatable when the “magic” is brought in. As this novel is designed for middle schoolers, the youngest will say they’ve outgrown it and the oldest really have. While the hat’s magical powers are symbolic of imagination and confidence, the characters’ expressed belief and the title can be deterring to potential readers. This is great for teachers to use to reassure students going to high school or for the kid sibling always tagging along. Some real issues and learning lessons are presented and can be effectively used for discussions in the classroom. For more adventures with these characters look for Fogelin’s novels, Crossing Jordan, The Big Nothing, and My Brother’s Hero.

More titles in the Series:
legs running book coversneakers book coversunset book cover