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The Lost Conspiracy

The Lost Conspiracy

The Lost Conspiracy

Hathin lives in a village on Gullstruck, a primitive island. Her people, the Lace, smile all the time no matter what they are feeling, and decorate their teeth with jewels. They also worship the volcanoes on the island. The Lace are not trusted or liked by the other island villages.

Most of the people on the island are regular people, but a select few are known as “Lost.” The Lost can do something really incredible. They can send their senses away from their bodies. Meet one, named Raglan Skein:

It was a burnished, cloudless day with a tug-of-war wind, a fine day for flying. And so Raglan Skein left his body neatly laid out on his bed, its breath as slow as sea swell, and took to the sky.

He took only his sight and hearing with him….Like all Lost, he had been born with his senses loosely tethered to his body, like a hook on a fishing line. He could let them out, then reel them in and remember all the places his mind had visited meanwhile.

Hathin’s siter, Arilou, might be a Lost. Might. Arilou doesn’t speak anything other people can understand. She mumbles gibberish and Hathin translates. The trouble is, Hathin has been making stuff up – she doesn’t now what Arilou is saying either, if anything. Hathin has been pretending because having a Lost in their village is good for the Lace, it makes the other people on the island like them more. Things get tense when an inspector comes to verify Arilou’s talents. Just how is Hathin going to pass these tests?

Hathin is saved from even having to try when a mysterious illness strikes every single Lost, an illness that makes them instantly drop dead. All of them, at the exact same moment, wherever they are on the island. All of them, that is, except Arilou. So, does that make her a fake, or really, really special? Nobody has time to figure that out because the Lace village is blamed for the plague that hit the Lost and is burned to the ground. Hathin and Arilou flee for their lives and this is when the action and the mystery gets really, really interesting.

Why did all of the Lost die at the same time? If Arilou really IS a Lost, why did she survive? Who would benefit from having the Lost gone? Who would want to get rid of the entire Lace village and why? As the girls flee through the jungle they meet up with some surprising allies who each have stories to tell about the evil that is infecting the island. Evil that feeds on prejudice, intolerance and hate. Evil that will resort to anything, even murder, to set a plan in motion. The problem is, no one can put a face or a name to the evil. It’s like a master puppeteer is orchestrating the show but isn’t seen on stage…who is it? As Hathin and her allies work through theories and follow leads this invisibile evil becomes all the more terrifying. One of my favorite books of the year. Author: Francis Hardinge

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Odd and the Frost Giants

Odd and the Frost Giants

Odd and the Frost Giants

Odd, what a name. The poor kid. He’s unlucky too. His Dad is dead and his mother has re-married someone Odd doesn’t like (and the feeling is mutual). He’s lame because a tree fell on him and most people around him think he’s useless because of that. And to top if off, Spring won’t come. Odd’s town has had winter stretching on for days with no sign of better weather. One day Odd decides to head to a cabin of his father’s in the woods. He’s had it with the frustrations in his life and figures anywhere is better than where he’s at.

In the woods a fox leads Odd to a bear stuck in a tree. There is also an eagle circling over the bear. After freeing the bear Odd discovers that the three animals are traveling together. They are really the Norse gods Thor, Loki and Odin. A Frost Giant has trapped the gods in animal bodies and is also responsible for the winter weather in Odd’s village.

Odd decides that THIS is the something better he’s been searching for, an adventure.  He sets out to confront the trouble making Frost Giant and set things right. Author: Neil Gaiman

If you liked Odd and the funny, bickering Thor, Loki and Odin, read more about them:
D'Aulaires' book of Norse myths Thor's Wedding Day Islands of the Blessed ds and Goddesses of the Ancient Norse

Gods and Goddesses of the Ancient Norse

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Operation Yes

Operation Yes

Operation Yes

This is a story about kids that live on a military base and attend school there.  Bo’s Dad is the commander on the base where Bo’s family lives. The base is in the US, so for now, Bo doesn’t have to worry about his Dad. But Bo lives with the reality that this could change, his Dad could be deployed to Afghanistan at any moment. Bo’s cousin Gari is also a military kid. Gari’s mom is a military nurse and has been sent to Iraq, so for the time being, Gari is living with Bo’s family.

Bo and Gari are both in the sixth grade and have Miss Loupe for their teacher. Miss Loupe knows all about army brats (that’s what people call kids whose parents are in the military). Miss Loupe knows about army brats because she teaches them and because she was one. Her brother is in Afghanistan so she knows about the worry her students feel too.

On the first day of school the kids realize Miss Loupe isn’t your average teacher. (And it’s not just her tatoos!) They don’t know what to expect when she walks in the room and begins taping off a large rectangle on the floor at the front of the class. She doesn’t even say anything, just gets down on the floor and starts taping. The kids learn that the tape rectangle is an imaginary stage and that Miss Loupe doesn’t want to be the only one on it. Drama and improv (short for improvisation – which is a kind of acting where there is no script, the actors just make it up as they go) are techniques Miss Loupe uses in her class to teach skills – even math and science, subjects not usually associated with drama.

The students learn to express themselves when they are called to “the stage”. The improv stage helps them learn to think on their feet and try really hard to say what they mean. As the year progresses the class and Miss Loupe become successful in their studies and close as a group.

When Miss Loupe’s brother goes missing in Afghanistan, the kids lose their energentic engaged teacher. Miss Loupe becomes distant and sad and sometimes she doesn’t even come to school. The kids understand why. What Miss Loupe is gong through is the very situation each one of them worries about. The kids decide that it is their job to bring Miss Loupe back by focusing all their energies on their soldier relatives and what they can do to support them. Working on their own, the kids cook up an elaborate, imaginative plan to help Miss Loupe, themselves, and their military community face the worries of war together. The kids use their new drama skills to stage a very surprising production.

I really liked Bo and Gari, Miss Loupe and the other kids in the class. I liked them because none of them were perfect. Even Miss Loupe. It is really clear that she is a great teacher and the kids love her, but she has her troubles too, just like all the kids in the class. I like characters that are a balance of their strengths and weaknesses. I don’t want to just see the good parts because people aren’t really like that.

Miss Loupe’s improvisation activities help the kids learn  how to adapt to changes they can’t predict. That’s a skill each one of them needs, because in their lives, you just never know. The kids never could have predicted that Miss Loupe would have such a life altering event, but when this unexpected thing DOES happen, they are able to use their best skills to come up with a plan and implement it – that is moving forward even when things are tough and you don’t think you can. Author: Sara Holmes

If you liked getting to know these military kids you might also like to read about Piper Reed, she’s a Navy brat.

#1: Piper Reed Navy Brat
#2: Piper Reed the Great Gypsy
#3: Piper Reed Gets a Job

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The Blue Shoe

The Blue Shoe

The Blue Shoe

The Blue Shoe is a fairy tale kind of story. It takes place in a little village in the mountains where people have jobs like making shoes by hand. Hap Barlo lives in this little village with has Dad who is the village beekeeper. When Hap’s Dad is unfairly sent to Mount Xexnax, the village prison, Hap goes to live with Grel, the village shoemaker. Hap is happy with Grel, happy as he can be, at least, without his Dad. But then Hap is ALSO unfairly sent to Mount Xexnax.

When Hap gets to Mount Xexnax he realizes that he is going to be forced to work in a mine looking for a rare blue diamond…and he isn’t alone. There are many people from Hap’s village in the prison, people who really did nothing wrong. There are also Aukis, blue-skinnned gnome-like people who are enslaved in the mine. As Hap begins to make friends among the prisoners (especially spunky Sophie Hartpence) he learns that his Dad is indeed alive and leading an underground resistance against the people running the mine. Hap is ready to join up and put the mine out of business for good.

Running a revolution isn’t easy though. For one thing, the Aukis and the humans don’t trust each other at all. It is Hap who begins to break down the barriers that have kept the prisoners from uniting to stand up against their oppressors. The prisoners have to confront their own prejudiced feelings about each other before they can form an effective team. Hap is detemined and brave and stubborn – it’s interesting to watch how his leadership skills and his ability to value what each person can contribute, bring about the freedom everyone is seeking.

This one might look like a fairy tale but Hap’s abilities are just as useful today. Author: Roderick Townley. The book also has several illustrations by Mary GrandPre – she’s the illustrator of the Harry Potter books.

If you like Hap’s story you might also like these over-the-top adventures:
The Secret of Zoom Emmy and the Incredible Shrinking Rat The Name of This Book is Secret Fortune's Magic Farm
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Anything But Typical

Anything But Typical

Anything But Typical

12 year-old Jason is in the 6th grade. He is an avid writer and likes to spend his free time on a website called Storyboard, an online space where users share stories they’ve written with each other.

Jason likes Storyboard so much because he can do all of his communicating with written words. He doesn’t have to look at anybody and they don’t have to look at him. On Storyboard he doesn’t have to figure out anybody’s facial expressions or body language. Because he is autistic, these things are hard for Jason. Plus, when he’s online, nobody notices if he blinks his eyes a lot or flaps his hands.

Jason has a huge vocabulary and active imagination. He shares a story online that is discovered by fellow Storyboarder Rebecca. They begin to communicate about their writing on Storyboard and a friendship develops – perhaps the first real friendship Jason has ever had.

I really liked this book because Jason tells the story. You get to see how Jason sees the world as an autistic person. Being able to tell how another person is feeling by looking at the expression on their face or by observing how they move their body…that seems really simple to us “neurotypicals.” Jason has to struggle with interpreting these messages all the time. His brain is just not wired to pick up on those signals from other people.

It is really interesting to hear Jason describe how odd and mysterious our behaviors seem to him. If somebody scowls at Jason, he doesn’t get the message that the person is mad. He may look at the person and say, “are you having a good day?” which will just make the person madder…even though Jason intended to be nice. In order for Jason to know that the person is angry the person would have to say the words outloud, “I am angry.”

And Jason does have some odd behaviors…like blinking his eyes a lot. Some of his habits are so noticable they drown out the fact that there is lot more normal about Jason than there is not normal. Seeing what is normal about Jason is what this book is all about.

  • Look Inside Anything But Typical
  • Read Chapter One Anything But Typical
  • Anything But Typical on CD

Jason reminds me a lot of Ted in The London Eye Mystery. Ted is also autistic. Other people find his lack of emotion and overly logical manner odd, but when he uses this unique way of thinking to solve the mystery of his missing cousin, his different way of thinking, the thing that make his seem odd to others, earns some respect.

Some other books about differently wired kids and their friends:
The London Eye Mystery The Mealworm Diaries Adam Canfield The Last Reporter Emma Jean Lazarus Fell Out of a Tree
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