High Adventure Under a Mountain?

Seems most of my Friday Flashback books have featured girls as main characters. So, viola! This week’s chapter book stars a male lead character. Leepike Ridge,  a 2008 high-adventure tale, penned by N.D. Wilson, takes readers on an adrenaline-producing  literary ride.

Tom is a frustrated kid. His father was killed by greedy treasure hunters. His mom plans to marry again and Tom just can’t deal with this soon-to-be stepfather. Angry, Tom storms down to the river, floats downstream on a piece of styrofoam and ends up in treacherous waters. Pulled into the water that flows beneath a mountain, Tom finds himself in a series of intricately woven caverns, the same ones in which his late father searched for treasure. The dark, mysterious and complex caves contain many secrets, including a dead body, strange carvings and Reginald Fisher, his father’s research colleague who has been trapped in the caverns for three years. Together, Tom and Reg form an alliance determined to survive and make their way to freedom.

Paralleling their struggle topside, Tom’s mother fights to find her son. Refusing to give up, she desperately accepts help from the most nefarious of sources, the ruthless treasure hunters responsible for her husband’s death.

The narrative contains murder, some violence and stressful situations, but for mature chapter book readers or 5th or 6th graders, the fast pace and excitement will keep them hooked from cover to cover!

Written by N.D. Wilson

Copyright 2007

Accelerated Reader Level: 4.8

A Crazy Aunt, A Ghost and a Gun

As a librarian, when students ask for a scary book, I usually show them a book with just enough suspense to get them interested and tell them that if it’s too creepy, close the book and bring it back. I really don’t want to cause nightmares, but I also know that some readers love a little creepy in their stories. So, I try to walk the line. Keep the readers reading and the parents from calling.  The Ghost’s Grave, written in 2011, was written far enough back to qualify as  a Flashback Friday book and is just right for kids that want something a tinge suspenseful to read around Halloween.

Josh’s parents travel overseas for work and leave him with his eccentric-to-say-the-least Aunt Ethel for the summer. To compound his agony, his aunt has no electronics, including television, and Carbon City, where he’s been transplanted, is a boring old mining town. He ends up entertaining himself by hanging out in what’s reported to be a haunted tree house near the cemetery. Josh gets more excitement than he bargains for when he is contacted by the ghost of Willie, a miner with a macabre request . Willie wants Josh to dig up a small, unkept grave with his arm bone in it. Josh is to retrieve the bone and then bury it with the rest of him in the graveyard. Josh complies and, in the process, discovers a box of stolen cash. Suddenly, a once-dull summer is now filled with supernatural events and a dangerous crime with Josh set right in the middle. Readers may be late for dinner as they can’t stop turning the page to discover Josh’s next move.

For fans like me, The Ghost’s Grave is yet another of the talented Peg Kehret’s yarns. As usual, she spins a don’t-miss tale woven with strong characters and rounded out with humor.

Written by Peg Kehret

Accelerated Reader, Level 5

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No Ordinary Story!

There are authors whose writing is ordinary and those whose ability to tell a story is simply extraordinary. I am happy to say that Natalie Lloyd’s offering, The Key to Extraordinary, is an example of the latter. From the first page to the last, readers will love the community and scenery Lloyd has created for her multilayered, entertaining protagonist, Emma. She lives with her Granny Blue, a gruff-on-the-outside character with ties to country music and boxing, and her kind and talented baking brother, Topher. Their home, with living space on top, has their bakery, the Boneyard Cafe, on the bottom, named fittingly.  Behind it is the town cemetery, where the backs of necks are often lightly touched and etherial songs can be heard.

Emma is a girl struggling with her “big empty”, a hole inside her left by the death of her mother. Before her passing, mama tells Emma that she will soon have her Destiny Dream. As with each previous girl in the family, the dream will reveal the dreamer’s special talent. Mama also gives her a well-worn book, a diary of sorts, with entries from each female relative. Reading the tellings of suffragettes to folktale singers, Emma is amazed and inspired by their extraordinary abilities and contributions. When her own dream happens, Emma, together with her old friend Cody Belle and her new non-verbal friend, Earl,  begins a quest that she believes will fulfill her destiny: to save the Boneyard Cafe and cemetery from a greedy developer by finding a long-missing treasure. It is Emma’s chance to be extraordinary. The tale is complex yet easily followed, with colorful characters full of strong voice, settings that come vibrantly to life and a story line packed with twists and turns. Part adventure, part mystery with a smattering of magic and tie-ins to History, this unique and satisfying tale will entice readers to become part of Emma’s extraordinary world and, maybe, develop a whole new appreciation for both flowers and hot cocoa!

By Natalie Lloyd

Copyright 2016

Accelerated Reader, Level 4.7

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TGIF, Barnes that is!

R.A. Spratt’s other book series takes the plucky qualities of Nanny Piggins and transplants them into a young girl named Friday Barnes.  Unlike the flamboyant Piggins, however, Friday, with her dowdy brown sweater and frumpy hair, is physically easy to miss.  As the youngest of five children and at her swanky private school, Friday is overlooked.  But Friday likes it that way. She is better off unnoticed, after all, she is a detective. Friday  discovers that her boarding school is replete with mysteries, from small puzzles to a reported monster in the bog on campus.  Friday puts herself in harms way and risks unpopularity and possible expulsion to find answers. Happily, Friday does find a new friend and assistant in Melanie, an unusual girl with a flair for noticing details. Friday is quirky, highly intelligent and undeterred in unwinding the story’s mysteries. Both boys and girls will appreciate the odd-ball detective that Spratt has crafted and yearn for the next installment in her sleuthing series.

Books in this series are generally rated level 5 in Accelerated Reader.

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