It's about a boy named Prez who is going to a foster family for the summer. He had been living with his grandfather, but that is somehow not possible anymore (the story about that unfolds with the book). He's placed with a big, loud family who has a small farm with animals. Prez is ok with the family-they are nice enough and loud enough to cover up the fact that he doesn't really talk to anyone. But right away, there's something kind of strange. An alien shows up calling himself Sputnik Mellows (Mellows is Prez's last name). He's wearing a kilt and aviator goggles and a yellow backpack and large number of weapons. The foster family takes one look at Sputnik and believes he is a dog, but none of them can agree on what KIND of a dog Sputnik is. After the youngest sister's birthday where she is nearly decapitated by a light saber and a tree is uprooted, Sputnik reveals he is actually trying to make a list of good things about the earth, because it is about to be destroyed. Honestly, this one of the craziest books I've ever read. It has so many hilarious, poignant moments that I'm tempted to read it again, RIGHT NOW because I'm worried I missed some of the good parts. This is brilliant. DO NOT MISS IT.
Science fiction is usually not in my wheelhouse, but this one was amazing! It's called "The Countdown Conspiracy" by Katie Slivensky. It's about a group of 6 super smart kids who are chosen for a Mars space mission. The main character, Miranda, is an expert in robotics. In fact, she's built a robot that obeys her every command and she won a world wide competition, beating out her strongest competitor, Sasha, a Russian boy. Miranda is very excited about the opportunity to go to Mars, but is also means leaving her family behind and going to train in Antarctica with scientists, computer programmers, and former astronauts. However, the mission is more dangerous than it seems, because even before they get to the training site, Miranda and one of her team mates are attacked. Security is increased and Miranda starts wondering why she was picked at all. There are lots of very exciting plot twists in this one. The characters are interesting and have lots of interesting kinds of interactions -they aren't all just friends because they're part of this small group and it's fun to watch how they figure out how to work together. The science in this one is awesome-from robotics and coding to space science, that was super fun to read about. And did I mention, at the heart of this book is a big fat mystery? I liked it a lot and I think the kids are going to like it too.
The last one is a kind of a folk tale fantasy adventure. It's called "Journey Across the Hidden Islands" by Sarah Beth Durst. It's about two girls, Ji Lin and Seika who are 12 year old twins. They live in an isolated kingdom and have been separated for quite some time so that they can train for their jobs. Seika is meant to be the ruler princess and Ji Lin is meant to be the protector/guard. They come home for a birthday celebration and are sent out on a quest to meet and negotiate with the dragon that protects their island kingdom. It's a great quest full of magical creatures, including the flying lion that Ji Lin rides as well as koji that need to be destroyed. It also has a lot of folktale elements that will make it a terrific read aloud. What's also great is that both girls are unsure about their abilities to do their jobs but each one gives the other courage when they need it the most. They make a wonderful team. I completely love Sarah Beth Durst's writing-she writes some really great dialogue that will make you laugh out loud. I think the kids are going to love this one.