New Book Reviews
Reading Level: Grades 7+
The year is 1984. Fifteen year old Maya packs a suitcase for a trip to India with her father. They are going to lay Maya's recently deceased Hindu mother to rest. Not long after they arrive, however, tumultuous religious differences between the Sikhs and Hindus explode into violence when prime minister Indira Gandhi is assassinated.
Maya and her father, a Sikh, are caught in the middle of the clash and separated when their hotel is attacked. Afraid for her safety because of her Hindu-Sikh parents and her sex, Maya quickly hacks off her long ponytail with a pair of scissors and runs, forgetting her mother's ashes in the hotel room.
The next hours are harrowing for Maya as the riots swell around her, Sikhs and Hindus fighting unrelentingly around her. When she finally emerges from the violence, rescued by a kind desert family but traumatized into muteness, it is only the 17-year old son, Sandeep, devoted to helping Maya find her father, that can save her again.
This historical fiction romance in diary-format free verse will have you turning pages back again and again to reread Maya and Sandeep's words and longing for more after the end. Karma is fraught with emotion, culture, violence, religion fear, but most importantly, family.
Other novels you might like:
For older readers:
Reading Level: Grades 6-9
14-year-old Sherlock Holmes is thrust into a deadly adventure when he is sent to live with eccentric relatives during the school holidays
Other engrossing Holmesian spin-offs include:
Reading Level: Grades 2-3
When J.J. Tully, a retired search and rescue dog, agrees to help a frantic mother hen find her missing chicks, he finds himself locked in a desperate struggle with an evil dachshund named "Vinnie the Funnel."
Other intrepid animal detective tales include:
Reading Level: Grade 7-9
Boaz Katznelson was a great athlete, talented student and all round high school golden boy. He was accepted to Cornell, Berkley, Tufts and Columbia Universities. His family was stunned when he announced he wasn’t going to college, he was enlisting in the Marines. Soon Boaz was overseas…after a few months, he stopped writing home. When Boaz finally came home, he walked straight upstairs and shut the door. He hasn’t been out in three weeks. Levi and his parents have waited three long years for Boaz's return. But he is no longer the brother Levi thought he knew. Even if nobody else wants to see it, Levi knows something is seriously wrong.
When Boaz announces he's off to hike the Appalachian Trail, Levi knows he's lying. So Levi follows, hoping to figure out how to save the brother he once adored.
Other stories of difficult brothers include:
Reading Level: Grades 6-8
According to people in his hometown, Jeffrey Alper is a hero. The 8th grader knows he isn't a hero. He's just the local "cancer kid" who had managed to stay alive since he was four years old. He's alive...yes. But Jeffrey has not escaped unscathed. The poisonous chemotherapy he has received over the past decade has left him with a limp and a serious learning disability. Two things that make it even more difficult for Jeffrey to be a "normal kid." This school year is even harder because his big brother Steven, the guy who got him through all the years of cancer treatment and pain has taken off to join a "drumming circle" in Africa leaving Jeff alone to navigate the trials of school, first love and an irascible best friend.
Other tales of kids dealing with cancer include:
Reading Level: Grades 6-8
The Bartimeaus trilogy chronicled the demon's misadventures while under the control of an 11-year-old magician. In this prequel Stroud shares one of the djinni's earlier adventures as the very reluctant slave of the evil Khaba, an ambitions magician in the court of King Solomon who rules Jerusalem with the help of the powerful slave of the ring.
As usual Bartimeaus's intelligence and snarky attitude land him in a world of trouble after he rescues Asmira, a "hereditary guard" who was sent by the Queen of Sheba to assassinate Solomon, from desert bandits. Instead of eating her, he spares her life setting into motion a disastrous series of events which may well result in the end of the ancient world.
For another entertaining djinn series try::
Reading Level: Grades 2-4
When Artie promises his mean cousin that he will give everyone firecrackers on the next Chinese New Year celebration, he immediately regrets it. How will he ever come up with enough money to buy all those firecrackers? Sympathetic to Artie's problem is Uncle Chester - a fun loving everyman who is wildly popular in Chinatown where Artie's family lives. Uncle Chester promises Artie that he will help - but when Uncle Chester's seemingly endless money starts to run out, Artie begins to worry.
A few similar books:
Reading Level: Grades 7-10
High school sophomore Mason has a fairly normal life, if you discount the ugly scar marring half of his hulky face; if you discount the disappearance of his father and his mother's drinking habit and tendency to require Mason to be her parent and not vice versa.
When Mason discovers that the Haven of Peace, the rehabilitation center his mom works at is not just for the elderly, but for brain damaged teens whose parents have given up on them in favor of experimentation on them, his life is turned upside down.
After accidentally reviving one of the teens and rescuing her from the Haven of Peace, Mason finds himself on the run from TroDyn, a bioengineering firm responsible for experimentation on the girl.
Other tales of morally gray experiments on children: