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The Naked Mole-Rat Letters by Mary Amato

Grade 5-7–Frankie Wallop is shocked when she reads an e-mail sent to her widowed father by a woman he met recently. Not only does it sound as though the two have spent time together, but also that there was a kiss involved. Immediately taking the situation in hand, the 12-year-old responds to Ayanna with the sound advice to never write her dad again–he is much too busy with his family, especially Frankie's two younger brothers who have some sort of horrible disease. Now that she has sorted that out, she can turn her attention to the upcoming audition for the school play, convinced that the lead will be hers. Frankie is about to find out that life does not always follow one's plans. Not only does Ayanna keep writing back, asking Frankie about her life and describing her own job as the keeper of the naked mole-rats at the National Zoo, but unhappy thoughts that her father might remarry also keep creeping into her mind. Not getting the part in the play is also a deep blow, and she does not know how to cope. The straight-A student finds herself ditching school, lying to her teachers, shutting out her best friend, and ignoring the needs of her younger brothers. Through the e-mails to Ayanna and her own diary entries, readers follow Frankie's struggles with disappointment, anger, loss, and growing up. Only after a family crisis does she finally talk with her father and begin to work things out.


The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane by Kate DiCamillo

Once, in a house on Egypt Street, there lived a china rabbit named Edward Tulane. The rabbit was very pleased with himself, and for good reason: he was owned by a girl named Abilene, who treated him with the utmost care and adored him completely. And then, one day, he was lost.

Kate DiCamillo takes us on an extraordinary journey, from the depths of the ocean to the net of a fisherman, from the top of a garbage heap to the fireside of a hobos camp, from the bedside of an ailing child to the bustling streets of Memphis. And along the way, we are shown a true miracle: even a heart of the most breakable kind can learn to love, to lose, and to love again.


The 7 Professors of the Far North by John Fardell

Sam never dreamed his vacation would turn into a life-or-death rescue mission to the Arctic Ocean. But when Zara and Ben’s great-uncle and his friends are kidnapped, the three children are left alone, with just three days to save them from the clutches of the sinister Professor Murdo. Countless obstacles stand in their way: hidden messages, secret passages, dangerous sea ice, a heavily guarded island fortress, and, finally, Murdo himself. Their exciting journey overflows with suspense and intrigue as they encounter extraordinary inventions and navigate the endless twists and turns of their quest…never knowing what might be lurking around the next corner.



The Giant Rat of Sumatra by Sid Fleischman

A swashbuckling pirate ship cuts through the early morning fog. Crouching like a tiger about to spring, her figurehead is a huge and ferocious rat with crooked teeth and gouged-out eyes.  When the daring Giant Rat of Sumatra drops anchor in San Diego, twelve-year-old cabin boy Shipwreck only wants to begin his long journey home to Boston. Instead he encounters:  snarling mutineers, barefoot bandits, hairbreadth escapes, duels, cunning barkeeps, simmering revenge, secret identities, scrappy orphans, betrayals, lost loves, old enemies, new villains, heroic last stands and razzle-dazzle treasure so well hidden that only someone as quick and clever as Shipwreck could keep up with it.  Plucked from the sea by the most notorious pirate in the Pacific, Shipwreck discovers his adventure is only beginning.



The Homework Machine by Dan Gutman

Brenton is a computer genius, but the other three members of his work group think he's a nerd. So, when he tells them that he has invented a machine that does homework, they taunt him until he agrees to demonstrate. The machine actually works, and Kelsey, Sam, and Judy convince him to let them use it. At first, they are delighted with their freedom, but things quickly get out of hand. Their teacher is suspicious of the suddenly errorless work, and other friends resent the time that they spend together. The dynamics within the group are stressful as well. Judy, a talented student, feels guilty about cheating, but is pressured to excel. Kelsey is concerned that her friends will shun her for associating with nerds, but her improved grades earn privileges at home. Wisecracking Sam makes fun of Brenton but needs his help in playing chess by mail with his dad, who is serving in Iraq. The children gradually begin to bond, especially after Sam's father is killed in combat. Eventually, their secret causes conflict with the law. The story is told entirely through short excerpts from police interviews. This device shows the developing relationships through the kids' own observations.


Rules by Cynthia Lord

Twelve-year-old Catherine just wants a normal life. Which is near impossible when you have a brother with autism and a family that revolves around his disability. She's spent years trying to teach David the rules-from "a peach is not a funny-looking apple" to "keep your pants on in public"-in order to stop his embarrassing behaviors. But the summer Catherine meets Jason, a paraplegic boy, and Kristi, the next-door friend she's always wished for, it's her own shocking behavior that turns everything upside down and forces her to ask: What is normal?



Reading the Bones by Gina McMurchy-Barber

Due to circumstances beyond her control, 12-year-old Peggy Henderson has to move to the quiet town of Crescent Beach, British Columbia, to live with her aunt and uncle. Without a father and seperated from her mother, who''s looking for work, Peggy feels her unhappiness increasing until the day she and her uncle start digging a pond in the backyard and she realizes the rock she''s been trying to pry from the ground is really a human skull. Peggy eventually learns that her home and the entire seaside town were built on top of a 5000-year-old Coast Salish fishing village. With the help of an elderly archaeologist, a woman named Eddy, Peggy comes to know the ancient storyteller buried in her yard in a way that few others can -- by reading the bones. As life with her aunt becomes more and more unbearable, Peggy looks to the old Salish man from the past for help and answers.


The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick

Orphan, clock keeper, and thief, Hugo lives in the walls of a busy Paris train station, where his survival depends on secrets and anonymity. But when his world suddenly interlocks—with an eccentric, bookish girl and a bitter old man who runs a toy booth in the train station, Hugo’s undercover life and his most precious secret are put in jeopardy. A cryptic drawing, a treasured notebook, a stolen key, a mechanical man, and a hidden message from Hugo’s dead father form the backbone of this intricate, tender, and spellbinding mystery.



Safe as Houses by Eric Walters

The date is October 15, 1954. Thirteen-year-old Elizabeth, who lives in the Toronto suburb of Weston, is a typical grade 8 girl. She has a secret crush on a boy in her class and she thinks Elvis Presley is "dreamy." Elizabeth also has a part-time job babysitting an adorable little grade 2 girl named Suzie, and Suzie’s not-so-adorable grade 6 brother, David. Elizabeth’s job is to walk Suzie and David home after school and then stay at their house with them until their mother gets home from work. David resents Elizabeth because he thinks he is too old for a babysitter, and he goes out of his way to make life miserable for her. particular evening, however, Elizabeth has more than a badly behaved boy to contend with. It is on this October night that Hurricane Hazel roars down on Toronto, bringing torrential rains that cause extensive flooding. David and Suzie’s house is on Raymore Drive, a street that will be practically wiped out by the floodwaters. David and Suzie’s parents are unable to reach the house, which means the children’s safety on this most deadly of nights is Elizabeth’s responsibility. She finds herself increasingly isolated. They are surrounded by rising water. The electricity goes out. The phone goes dead. Still, Elizabeth is sure they will be safe as long as they remain in the house. But are Elizabeth and the children really as "safe as houses"? Before this terrifying night is over, Elizabeth and David will have to learn to communicate and cooperate if they are to save their own lives and Suzie’s. Their survival in the midst of one of Canada’s worst disasters will depend upon their resourcefulness, maturity and courage.


Dragon Keeper by Carole Wilkinson

The year is 141 B.C. and a young girl with no name works as a slave at the desolate Huangling Place located on the edge of the Han Empire in China. The young girl serves a cruel master named Lan who is the Imperial Dragon Keeper. Master Lan's job is to feed and take care of the Emperor's imperial dragons, but he is lazy and makes the girl do his job instead. The slave is afraid of the two strange creatures that live in the dark pit, but puts aside her fears and tends to the dragons each day. Then one day, one of the dragons dies. The girl feels guilty because the day before she had eaten a bowl of fresh food with her pet rat Hua that was meant for the dragons. She is then horrified when Master Lan decides to get rid of the dead dragon by pickling it. The girl knows that the pickling of an imperial dragon would mean death if the absent Emperor ever found out. A couple of weeks pass, and while searching the Palace, the girl is greeted with the unexpected visit of the Emperor and his court. She accidentally ends up secretly watching an imperial banquet and overhears the Emperor making a deal with a greedy dragon hunter named Diao. She witnesses the Emperor and his wife unknowingly taste some of the dragon pickle. The girl reveals herself and tells the stunned court the horrible truth. She rescues the remaining imperial dragon and, along with Hua, is taken on a journey as the elderly dragon flies them away from the Palace. The girl discovers that the dragon is named Long Danzi and that her own name is Ping. Ping joins the wise Danzi on a quest that will introduce her to a magical and dangerous world far greater than she has ever known. The only question is whether of not they will survive and complete their quest before it's too late.

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