I'm also a little afraid that I'm hitting a wall with these books. I might have to go and read 50 shades of Gray just to shake things up a bit. Ok, I'm not that low yet.
I read this one this morning. COULD NOT PUT IT DOWN. I read this first chapter last night and when I woke up, I thought I should read a bit more. Until I finished it. It's called "The Safest Lie" by Angela Cerrito. I should also mention that I've hit a saturation point with books about World War 2 and so I don't choose to read them any more, but this one had such a compelling voice, that I COULD NOT PUT IT DOWN. Noticing a theme? It's about Anna, who is 9, and lives with her parents in Warsaw in the Jewish ghetto. Things are bad. All of their conversations are in code because people live in very tight quarters and no one knows who they can trust. When one of the people that Anna's family trusts comes with a message, Anna's mom starts teaching her a new identity - a new name, a new birthday, a new home town, until Anna can answer the questions even if she's sleepy. And then their friend takes Anna away. Anna is a kind girl who wants to help and take care of others so she does, in each of the places she lands during the war. It's a really great picture of what it was like to be a hidden Jew during the war and hints at the life of Irena Sendler, a woman who saved the lives of thousands of Jewish children. Her story is also told in a picture book called "Jars of Hope" by Jennifer Roy. I think kids are going to like this one a lot because Anna is such a strong and resilient character.
This second one is sort of historical fiction because part of it's set during Hurricane Katrina, which I remember very vividly, as an adult. So I guess to kids, it would be historical fiction, but to me it was pretty fresh in my memory. Geezer, that I am. This one's called "Another Kind of Hurricane" by Tamara Ellis Smith. This is her first novel and I sincerely hope it's not her last. It starts off with snippets of people's lives and it's a little confusing at first. There is a boy in Vermont named Henry who's best friend has died. Henry is not coping well. Then there's a second boy, Zavion, who is New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina. Zavion's mom died sometime before that but the house he shares with his dad holds a lot of memories. The house is completely destroyed (in a pretty vivid way) and Zavion and his dad make their way to some friends' house in Baton Rouge, where they and some other Katrina victims can stay. Zavion is also struggling-he's having nightmares about the experiences during Katrina. Both boys end up on a quest and the story continues from there. I liked the interesting characters. I liked how the kids felt that going to help others was a great way to move forward. I liked how telling someone was a great problem solving strategy. I really liked this one.
And call me crazy, but I think you could connect this one to "A Tangle of Knots" by Lisa Graff. The way the stories started out, where you have lots of characters, without any apparent connections and then they all come together is really great. Obviously, you could also connect it to any of the other books about surviving hurricane Katrina, like "Finding Someplace" by Denise Lewis Patrick, "Hooper Finds a Home" by Jane Paley, "Zane and the Hurricane" by Rodman Philbrick, or "Ninth Ward" by Jewell Parker Rhodes.
This last one was a really great one to shake things up! It's called "The Blackthorn Key" by Kevin Sands it was awesome. It's set in London in 1665 (and honestly, the dialogue is pretty modern, but it's so good, I thought it was ok because I probably wouldn't have gotten it if the dialogue was historically accurate), Christopher is an orphan who was rescued from the orphanage by Master Benedict, an apothecary. I say rescued because orphans didn't have very many options out in the world, but as an apprentice, Christopher was learning a trade and had the opportunity to have his own shop one day. But there is mystery afoot. Apothecaries are being murdered (in particularly ugly ways) and Christopher worries for his master. Then one day, he comes home to the unthinkable and Christopher vows to find his master's murderers. This story is full of terrific plot twists and tricky puzzles. I think it might be a bit too big for an elementary school library (quite a lot of tortuous murder) but lots of bigger kids are going to love this one. Here's a book trailer about it.