Category Archives: mystery

Under the Egg by Laura Marx Fitzgerald

I was instantly drawn in by 13-year-old Theo (Theodora). She loses her beloved grandfather, Jack, in the very first chapter, leaving her alone with her dysfunctional, almost-always absent mother and not enough money to eat much more than Theo can grow in her backyard city garden. Yet Theo never feels sorry for herself, and neither does the reader. I admired her pluck and self-sufficiency, and gladly went along for the ride as Theo and her new (first ever?) friend, Bodhi, launch themselves into an adventure/mystery that kept me turning pages right up until the satisfying end. I’ll definitely be recommending this to my students in the fall.

Many thanks to the publisher who provided this e-galley via Netgalley.

Publisher’s description:  A mystery for readers who loved Chasing Vermeer and From the Mixed-Up Files of Basil E. Frankweiler…

 Only two people know about the masterpiece hidden in the Tenpenny home—and one of them is dead.

 The other is Theodora Tenpenny. Theo is responsible for tending the family’s two-hundred-year-old town house, caring for a flock of unwieldy chickens, and supporting her fragile mother, all on her grandfather’s legacy of $463. So, when Theo discovers a painting in the house that looks like a priceless masterpiece, she should be happy about it. But Theo’s late grandfather was a security guard at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and if the painting is as valuable as she thinks it is, then her grandfather wasn’t who she thought he was.

With the help of some unusual new friends, Theo’s search for answers takes her all over Manhattan and introduces her to a side of the city—and her grandfather—that she never knew. To solve the mystery, she’ll have to abandon her hard-won self-reliance and build a community, one serendipitous friendship at a time.

Hand this book to the kid who:

* enjoys a good mystery

* is interested in art history and/or the Renaissance

* has a bit of background/interest in World War II

* has seen the movie The Monuments Men (PG13). Click link to view the trailer for those who haven’t seen the movie–this will provide important background info for one section of the book).

* has a family member who suffers from mental illness. Theo’s mother is almost always in her bedroom working on a math equation for her thesis, but Theo is definitely the caretaker in the house.

Use this to discuss:

* The Role of Art in Culture –The story behind the missing painting is an interesting one. The topic should spark some interesting discussions on the purpose of art, to whom it really belongs, and it’s value–both monetary and intrinsic.

* The Renaissance–It’s interesting to learn snippets of what some of this period’s famous artists were like as people.

* Research–One of my favorite characters is the super cool librarian 😉 , a young guy who helps Theo with her research, both in print and online. It’s the perfect example of going from a general topic to specifics, reliability of sources, cross-checking sources, etc.

* Museum Field Trip Prep–The next time I walk into an art museum, I’ll definitely take a closer look at the exhibits, thanks to this book. Under the Egg would serve as a nice primer before you and your students head out on a museum field trip. Most major museums have virtual tours, like the Met, one of the NYC museums featured in the book.

Visit author Laura Marx Fitzgerald’s website here, excellent links to resources about World War II, Art, and more here, and a discussion guide here.

The Nitty Gritty~

Publisher: Dial/Penguin

Publication Date: March 2014

ISBN-13: 978-0803740013

Number of Pages: 256

For ages 9-12, but I think slightly older readers will also enjoy the layered art history aspects of the book.

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Six Months Later by Natalie D. Richards

When I received the e-galley of Six Months Later from NetGalley, I was in the middle of reading another book–a print book. Now, I’m not the kind of reader who juggles more than one story at a time–once I enter one fictitious world, I prefer to stay in that world right through to the last page. But when I found myself waiting in a long line at the bank one day, I pulled my Kindle from my bag and opened the Six Months Later e-galley. And that was that. I didn’t go back to the print book until I’d finished my e-galley of Six Months Later. I was swept up into Chloe’s world and had to find out how it ended. As the mom of a teen girl, I knew that kids would be drawn to the mystery and intrigue of the plot. As a teacher-librarian, I was practically giddy at the possibilities for discussion that this book lends.

Publisher’s description:  She Has Everything She Ever Wanted. But Not Her Memory…

When Chloe fell asleep in study hall, it was the middle of May. When she wakes up, snow is on the ground and she can’t remember the last six months of her life.

Before, she’d been a mediocre student. Now, she’s on track for valedictorian and being recruited by Ivy League schools. Before, she never had a chance with super jock Blake. Now he’s her boyfriend. Before, she and Maggie were inseparable. Now her best friend won’t speak to her.

What happened to her? Remembering the truth could be more dangerous than she knows…

I’m happy to welcome author Natalie D. Richards to Biblio Links to talk about how Six Months Later fits into classrooms, libraries, and book clubs.

Biblio Links: A student walks into my library and I think: That kid needs a copy of Six Months Later. Who is this kid?

Natalie: This is a reader who likes puzzles, a teen who likes to unravel things and enjoys stories that keep them guessing. It might be a kid who struggles to get into “slow start” books, or maybe a kid who’s more bright and promising than she realizes. My main character struggles with her personal definition of success throughout the book, so I think it’s also a good book for readers who are thinkers and challengers, teens who are forge their own path through education.

Biblio Links: If we were to peek into a classroom where a teacher is using Six Months Later in a lesson, or a librarian is discussing your book in a book club, what might we see?

Natalie: If we are in a literature classroom, she might be talking about how a writer can build different layers of suspense throughout a manuscript. In a guidance counselor’s office or a college prep class, you’d probably hear a conversation about the pressures of late high school life, and strategies for handling those pressures without losing yourself in them.

Biblio Links: What writing advice do you have for teens?

Natalie: READ READ READ. Oh, and read. Then read a little more. No joke, reading is key. And writing is a darn close second. There are also loads of amazing organizations depending on the genre you’re interested in writing. I’m always happy to recommend SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators) for anyone interested in writing for children or teens.

Biblio Links: Where can teachers, librarians and students learn more about you and your book?

Natalie: I love visiting schools and speaking with libraries. By all means, email me at natdrichards@gmail.com or check out my website at http://www.nataliedrichards.com

Thanks, Natalie!

Hand this book to the kid who:

* might be a reluctant reader and needs a page-turner of a mystery (I would not be surprised if this book ends up on the ALA Quick Picks for Young Adult Readers)

* dreams of being accepted by the “in crowd” and needs some reminding that he or she can shine without the glitter of popularity

* could use a positive role model of a character with a disability. Chloe’s best friend, Maggie, stutters. While Chloe obviously realizes this, it is not a big deal at all. I love that. There’s a brief reference to one of the popular crowd who teases Maggie, but it’s not a focus of who Maggie is, and it’s not An Issue at all.

Use this to teach:

Plot Structure–The opening of the book begins with Chloe waking up in study hall and having no idea what’s happened to her in the past six months. There are flashbacks, foreshadowing, and red herrings, oh my! Teens will enjoy piecing this plot together.

* Character Development--Chloe learns both who she was and who she is becoming, as well as the value of true friendship.

*Ethics–The Chloe who wakes up in study hall seems to have it all–top grades, dating the most popular boy in school, etc. After reading the book, discuss with kids the ethics behind drugs, procedures, etc. that are designed to bring us closer and closer to perfect. Pair this book with Scott Westerfield’s Uglies series.

Click here for the author’s website and reviews.

The Nitty Gritty~

Publisher: Sourcebooks

Publication Date: October 1, 2013

ISBN-13: 9781402285516

Number of Pages: 336

Thanks to Sheila at Book Journeys for starting this meme, and Jen (Teach Mentor Texts) and Kellee (Unleashing Readers) for turning it into a kid-lit meme! Click here for more Monday reviews.

Thanks to Sheila at Book Journeys for starting this meme, and Jen (Teach Mentor Texts) and Kellee (Unleashing Readers) for turning it into a kid-lit meme! Click here for more Monday reviews.

Paradox by Ammi-Joan Paquette

paradox_thumbToday Biblio Links once again welcomes prolific author Ammi-Joan Paquette! She’s had three picture books and two middle grade novels published so far, with another picture book coming out this fall.

Today’s review is for her thrilling sci-fi debut young adult novel Paradox.

Publisher’s summary:  Fans of James Dashner’s Maze Runner series will love this postapocalyptic adventure about a girl who must survive an alien planet in order to save the Earth.

Ana only knows her name because of the tag she finds pinned to her jumpsuit. Waking in the featureless compartment of a rocket ship, she opens the hatch to discover that she has landed on a barren alien world. Instructions in her pocket tell her to observe and to survive, no doubt with help from the wicked-looking knives she carries on her belt. But to what purpose?

Meeting up with three other teens–one boy seems strangely familiar–Ana treks across the inhospitable landscape, occasionally encountering odd twists of light that carry glimpses of people back on Earth. They’re working on some sort of problem, and the situation is critical. What is the connection between Ana’s mission on this planet and the crisis back on Earth, and how is she supposed to figure out the answer when she can’t remember anything?

~

Once I realized that I could NOT put this book down, I immediately thought of several reluctant readers in my library who would love this fast-paced, sci-fi mystery. It’s got a strong female main character, an unfolding mystery, high stakes, danger, and a fascinating other-world setting. Really, what’s not to love?

As a librarian in a very culturally diverse school district, one of the things I appreciate most about Paradox is something I haven’t seen mentioned in other reviews:  the book’s multicultural cast of characters. Ana Ortez is the main character, and she is eventually joined by three other teens, Todd Oslow, Ysa Klein, and Chen Wai. Race or culture doesn’t factor into the plot or dialogue at all. Love that.

JoanI asked Joan to tell us how Paradox might fit into your library or classroom.

BiblioLinks:  A student walks into my library and I think, That kid needs a copy of Paradox. Who is this kid?

Joan: The ideal PARADOX reader is a student who looks for fast-paced stories and benefits from highly active, engaging storylines. It’s a spare, quick read that would be ideal for reluctant readers. It’s also great for kids with a scientific inclination, and those who like to puzzle out problems and collect data to come to a conclusion. The perfect read for analytical thinkers who want to put their active brains to recreational use!

BiblioLinks: I agree, Joan–this book will definitely appeal to reluctant (and avid!) readers. If we were to peek into a classroom where a teacher is using Paradox in a lesson or with a small group, what might we see?

 Joan: There are many science-based springboard discussions that could arise from this book: the development of disease and how contagious agents could be spread across a global landscape; the very real developments of space travel and the recent discovery of potentially habitable planets; rotation of binary solar systems and how they differ from our own. There’s also a lot of story connections to be made, connecting the generational links and organizing them into a time-sequential storyline, understanding the logic of how the different elements in the book all fit together. Students might also use the enclosed news articles as a springboard to writing their own articles highlighting recent real-life scientific breakthroughs they find exciting and groundbreaking.

 BiblioLinks: Lots of STEM connections for educators to explore. In addition to using the newspapers articles as springboards like you mentioned, the interview transcript with Ana’s mother could also spark spin-offs where students could create mock interviews with other characters in the story. The present-tense, third person point of view would also make for some interesting discussions.

Where can teachers, librarians and students learn more about you and your book?

 Joan: You can find me on the web at www.ajpaquette.com, and for more about PARADOX specifically, visit the Random Buzzers forum to read some Q&As from teen readers here, or drop by here to read the opening chapter.

Biblio Links: Thanks for joining us, Joan!

Teachers and librarians, click here for rave reviews of Paradox.

The Nitty Gritty~

Publisher: Random House Books for Young Readers

Publication Date: June 2013

ISBN-13: 978-0375869624

Interest Level: ages 12 and up

Number of Pages: 240

Visit Shannon Messenger's website for more marvelous middle grade titles!

Although Paradox is a young adult title, it’s recommended for ages 12 and up, so I’ve included it in Shannon Messenger’s Marvelous Middle Grade Monday round up. Click here to visit her blog for more middle grade recommendations.

Thanks to Sheila at Book Journeys for starting this meme, and Jen (Teach Mentor Texts) and Kellee (Unleashing Readers) for turning it into a kid-lit meme!

Thanks to Sheila at Book Journeys for starting this meme, and Jen (Teach Mentor Texts) and Kellee (Unleashing Readers) for turning it into a kid-lit meme!