Tag Archives: Junior Fiction

The Miscalculations of Lightning Girl

The Miscalculations of Lightning Girl, by Stacy McAnulty

Random House Children’s Books, 2018

Bluebonnet nomination for 2019 – 2020

292 pages

Upper Elementary

Lucy Callahan was struck by lightning,  and this gave her genius-level math skills.  Aged 12, she is technically ready for college, but she has to spend a year in middle school before that.  It may sound improbable, but actually this is a very compelling and believable read.  Middle school is tough to figure out, especially if  you are hiding a massive secret, and your life is complicated with OCD.  If you love dogs, right there is another great reason to pick up the book. The book just got better and better, and the end will blow you away.



We have a new writer on the block!  Welcome to  LIZ COHEN, invaluable (read indispensable) member of our Winston community! Liz will be sharing some thoughts on books she is reading that she thinks many of our students will enjoy.  Liz has a soft spot for zombies, so wait for her rave reviews on those despicables. 


Review by LIZ COHEN

Polaris by Michael Northrop

(Scholastic, 2017)

Do you like an adventure tale? Swashbuckling sailors? Adventure on the  high seas?  Maybe?! How about this: do you like a science fiction story? People running from monsters? Maybe?! How about this: do you like a murder mystery? Scientists and sailors struck down by
the unknown? Maybe?! How about this: do you like an all-boy book? Or an all-girl book? Hang onto your backpacks because this book has it all!

The Polaris is a sailing ship on a mission to the Amazon jungle looking for new plant-life. The botanist finds something else, and brings it back to the ship. What is in the trunk stored in the hold of the ship? Before you can find out, half of the ship’s crew dies, and the other halfabandon ship while trying to blow it up! The only people left are the cabin boy, the botanist’s assistant, and some deck hands, and none of them are older than 12. How will they get back to
America? They will have to sail the ship back while fighting stormy seas and the mysterious thing in the hold.

This book would be great for a book report, a diorama, a poster, or just a good read.
(Best for 5th and 6th graders.)

Flyaway – a story of hope


Flyaway by Lucy Christopher

Author of the Printz Honor Book Stolen

I’m reading E.B. White’s The Trumpet of the Swan, and two chapters into the book, I start thinking that my students who are mostly eight-ish, are going to think that this is moving like treacle. I mean, this is E.B. White of Charlotte’s Web fame, isn’t it?   I was wrong, so wrong!  They love this book. So, with the help of  youtube clips on trumpeter swans taking off from the water and calling for a mate and so on, we are totally into this whimsical and improbable tale.

Back to swans, and written for older kids ages 9 and up, Flyaway is a beautiful story told against a backdrop of very hard family circumstances.  Isla and her father are running across a field trying to keep up with  the swans who are flying in to winter over at a nearby lake.  The birds collide with power lines, and Isla’s father collapses..

This is a book that could help readers understand difficult times and perhaps come to terms with their own set of experiences.  Aside from that, it’s so well written and has many elements that kids generally love to read about: environmental issues, coming of age, sibling craziness, other students, often mean and uncomprehending, and then swans, those exquisite almost mythical creatures.

I listened to Flyaway narrated by Harriet Carmichael and produced by Recorded Books and finished up thinking that my commute home was definitely well spent.  It was no white knuckle journey, but the story is compelling and the characters believable.

Time Warp in a Box

The Keepers: book1


The Keepers: The Box and the Dragonfly
by Ted Sanders (Author), Iacopo Bruno (Illustrator)
549 pages
HarperCollins (March 3, 2015)
Grades 4-6

This is a story I picked up after passing on it several times. The book cover and description sound interesting, but I just wasn’t sure I wanted to begin another long possibly protracted series for young readers. However, the school year is upon us and I decided to pick it up on the off chance that one of our students might request it.

Horace is a middle schooler in Chicago with an inability to keep track of his house keys. So when he stumbles upon a sign that seems to have his name on it, but in reality has “house of answers” on the sign he can’t resist and has to get a look inside. What he finds is more questions and lots of bins with labels like “unbinnable” or “sorted” and a ledger that writes in colored ink. When Horace discoveres a box that fits in his hand and feels like it belongs there, he is launched into an adventure against two groups: the Keepers and the Makers, of remarkable seemingly magical objects that possess the power to do amazing things. He and another young initiate Chloe must figure out what their artifacts do, and what side they are on quickly, before someone else makes that decision for them.

First the good. It is a fun junior fiction tale that has a secret society, magical/science artifacts, a big bad, and a boy/girl team. The bad, the first book is one ginormous set up. Oh yes, there is some action, and some pretty impressive world building, but I just didn’t think there was any character development or story progression. In the end, our characters ended right back where they started, just with more knowledge and no bad guy defeated. Oh, and I am not a big fan of scientific exposition within what is billed as a fantasy. These long discussions stalled the story and made for uneven reading. Because so little was accomplished I am thinking this series is slated to be a big one. For a young boy or girl who is a fan of action adventure stories with a dash of science, this is a great novel.

Parental Note: I really didn’t like the Chloe’ abusive drunken father or the solution/explanation of he’s ok it’s just the alcohol/artifact/situation…. There were some pretty distressing emotional reasons given for Chloe’ fathers depression that just don’t justify his behavior. Sorry, abuse is abuse. And to imply that it is ok to treat your children this way because their Mother walked out is inexcusable. It is also inexcusable to say living in filth is alright if he is good deep down inside. I really wanted to say don’t rescue him, let the bastard rot, but that is not how it is done in Junior Fiction stories.