Cody is thirteen years old. He has spent his life travelling the world with his Dad who is an undercover CIA agent. After Cody gets caught in an explosion intended for his Dad, he is sent to live with his Aunt in Connecticut to spend time as a regular kid in a regular school…safe.
When Cody’s Aunt picks him up at the airport in a red Jeep, you get your first look at how Cody’s mind has been trained to think:
It’s a red Jeep Wrangler. A questionable choice of transportation, as it lacks speed, mobility, and protection, although it’s a capable off-road and poor-weather vehicle. The color, of course, is totally wrong. We might as well just drive around all day sending up flares.
Cody might know his vehicles, he might know defensive maneuvers in a crowded room, he might know surveillance techniques…but he doesn’t know a thing about what to wear or what to do or what to say in Middle School, possibly one of the scariest places on earth.
For one thing, Cody likes to wear designer suits. All the spies do. And if anything will make a kid a target, it’s a suit. It doesn’t take long for Cody’s oddities to get noticed. When the bullies attack they get more then they bargained for – Cody takes out five of them with his advanced martial art skills. He might talk kind of funny and he might dress kind of funny and he might act kind of funny…but beating 5 to 1 odds makes Cody a hero. He suddenly finds himself the center of attention…when all he wants to do is blend in, disappear, never be noticed again.
The very skills that make Cody invisible in the spy world make him stand out in Middle School. Being noticed makes Cody very uncomfortable. Being watched makes him more uncomfortable still, and Cody IS being watched, and not just at school, his training tells him this is true. But by who? And what do they want?
Allie Finkle’s back with more rules for girls. Her class is putting on a play and Mrs. Hunter announces that the students must audition for the parts. Allie is sure she wants to audition for the main part, Princess Penelope, so she can wear a pretty dress and a tiara and be the star. But before she can say which part she wants to audition for, her friend Sophie says SHE wants to be Penelope too. The auditions pit friend against friend for the most coveted parts. It’s a competition and some good rules just might keep the auditions from getting ugly.
1. No one likes a sore loser.
2. No one likes a sore winner.
3. It’s important to accept victory modestly. (Then you can celebrate all you want in private, where the losers can’t see you.)
The auditions also pit friend against enemy. Allie and Sophie both hope to be Penelope, but even more, they definitely don’t want bragging Cheyenne to get the part. “back in Canada, I was actually the lead in all my school plays…I brought my head shot and resume in to show Mrs. Hunter. I guess none of you brought head shots and resumes, did you?” Blech. Allie and her friends are NOT impressed.
The audition day turns out to be pretty emotional. Everybody’s nervous and not everybody gets the part they want. How each person reacts to their victory or their disappointment is the fun of reading about Allie and her classmates. Despite the victory dances and the tears and the drama queen temper tantrums the show must go on so Allie can add one more rule to her list, “There are no small parts, only small actors.”
Minli and her parents are dirt poor. They scratch out a living on their little plot of land but are able to harvest just barely enough rice to keep themselves alive. Minli’s dad tries to cheer them up by telling adventurous stories at night, stories full of talking fish and dragons.
Minli, having grown up on her father’s stories, believes that the Old Man of the Moon controls people’s fortunes. When a talking Goldfish reveals the way to Never-Ending Mountain, the home of the Old Man of the Moon, Minli sneaks off to find the Old Man and discover what will bring her family good fortune.
This begins a journey that will take Minli many miles. On her quest to change her family’s fortune Minli befriends a flightless dragon, an orphan and a King. She faces riddles and danger and the unknown with bravery and determination. She has to be smart and decisive but she also has to stay true to herself and what she believes to be right and fair and true. Author: Grace Lin
Minli reminds me a lot of Mulan – the Disney movie is based on the real story of a woman warrior in China. If you like the Chinese folklore that is part of Minli’s story try Fa Mulan or Timothy and the Dragon’s Gate – an adventure about a boy and Chinese dragon. The last two are other books by Grace Lin.
Griffin Bing, “the Man with the Plan” is back with his friends from Swindle to solve another mystery and put some more shady adults in their place.
The day Savannah’s pet monkey Cleo goes missing gets worse when the kids discover the monkey is being held captive in a crummy, run-down zoo. As if running a crummy zoo with tiny cages and questionable animal care isn’t bad enough, the zoo is actually stealing pets to fill up the zoo…and the kids aren’t going to stand for it. The grown-ups the kids go to for help are no help at all, so the kids decide that what they need…is a plan. Enter Griffin “the Man with the Plan”, who assembles the team:
Savannah: Animal Expert
Antonia AKA “Pitch”: Rock Climber
Melissa: Eletronics Expert
Ben: the Small Guy
The plan is “Operation Zoobreak”. The kids need to get to the zoo in the middle of the night, distract the night watchman, free Cleo from her cage and get out again without being seen. The plan requires precision. The plan requires stealth. The plan falls apart when the kids realize that freeing just Cleo means leaving all the other animals behind…and that’s not good enough. In a last minute alteration to “the plan” they free more than 40 other animals, divide them up and stash them in their houses…withough their parents or anyone else noticing. If you don’t think this plan will work, well, then you havn’t met Griffin Bing.
Sometimes grownups make mistakes or drop the ball or just don’t get it. When this happens, kids like Griffin and his friends step in to set things right. If you like reading about a kid like Griffin, try on of these:
Peter and the Sword of Mercy is book four in the Peter and the Starcatchers series, the high-flying, page turning, pirate adventure series that was written as a prequel to Peter Pan. A prequel is a story that tells you about what happened before another story. If you ever wondered how Peter came to the island, why he can fly, and why he can never grow up, the Peter and the Starcatchers series will answer those questions in funny, dramatic style.
In Peter and the Sword of Mercy, 20 years have passed since Peter and the orphan boys met Molly Aster and found out about starstuff and its magical properties. Peter stayed behind on the island but the other children returned to London. Molly is now married and the mother of three children, Wendy, Michael & John. James, one of the Lost Boys, has become a policeman and is working for Scotland Yard.
James appears at Molly’s house one night with a strange and frightning tale. James thinks that Prince Albert Edward, who is about to be crowned king of England, is being controlled by evil people who are after a secret stash of starstuff hidden somewhere underground in London.
Molly is alarmed at James’s fears and the two agree to meet to figure out what to do…except they both disappear. Luckily, Molly’s daughter Wendy eavesdropped on their conversation and is determined to save her mother. Wendy has heard the Peter Pan stories, could they possibly be real? If she could find Peter, could he help her save her mother? Wendy goes to the Lost Boys for help and begins an adventure that will take her straight into the struggle for control of the world’s supply of starstuff. Authors: Dave Barry & Ridley Scott Series: Peter and the Starcatchers
There are several books that tell more about Peter Pan and his adventures with Captain Hook, Wendy & the Lost Boys. Try them all! And if you like this kind of high spirited, action packed writing, try Science Fair, also by Dave Barry.