The first one is a sequel to a book I read last year called "Serafina and the Black Cloak" by Robert Beatty. I was lucky enough to get to hear Robert speak at the NCRA meeting in Raleigh in March and he's just as charming and interesting and you would imagine him to be. The new one that's coming out in July (I think) is called "Serafina and the Twisted Staff". What's great about both of these books is that they weave historical fiction (they are both set at the turn of the 19th century in Asheville, NC at the Biltmore House) and folkloric fantasy. I can't tell you too much of the story without completely giving a way the plot, but let me tell you, the story is exciting and fast paced and well written. Everything you'd want in a middle grade novel. Don't miss this one.
Here's a link to a book trailer that Robert Beatty made. And this is what the cover looks like. Isn't it awesome?
This next one is the second one a new series by Jackson Pearce about kids who are spies. The first one is called "Doublecross" and this one is called "Inside Job". The main character is a boy named Hale who is 12. Hale is overweight and people assume he isn't too good at being a spy because he failed every class in spy school. In "Doublecross", his parents disappear and it turns out SRS (The Sub Rosa Society-the agency his parents have been with for years and has been training Hale and his sister Kennedy) is not quite what it seems. "Inside Job" picks up where "Doublecross" left off. This time, Hale and his friends are trying to figure out what happened to his parents as well as trying to chase down the bad guys, who are the agency they used to work for. They have decided they need to follow the money trail, which takes them to Geneva, Switzerland. (This made it extra funny for me, because my sister owns a home near Geneva). What's great about this one is how funny it is on top of the mystery. So many times you think "They are so BUSTED!" and they managed to escape and even succeed. This one is a very fun second installment in a great mystery series!
The last one is called "Soar" and it's by Tracy Edward Wymer. This one is realistic fiction so it's really different from the other two, but it's really compelling and very well written. It's about a boy named Eddie who is starting 7th grade in his small town in Indiana. It's not off to a great start because his dad died the year before. His best friend moved away and a new girl moved in and he has a teacher who knew his dad but doesn't seem to have liked him. His mom is also really busy trying to work to earn enough money to keep their household going and there is a bully in his grade that he can't seem to avoid. It's a lot to deal with and Eddie has to work through each one a little at a time. Eddie is a very compelling character with a great voice. The issues Eddie is dealing with seem overwhelming at times and that's part of what makes this story so great. As each issue is dealt with, different layers of the story unfold and it's lovely. It's probably too big for my elementary kids-there were a couple of scenes where Eddie was thinking about his dad that made me think it might be too intense for them, but it is a great story. I really couldn't put this one down.