Things at Harper’s house are different since her Daddy drove away. There had been fighting and he had been drinking too much and this time, after he drove away, he never came back home again. It’s quieter now. There’s no shouting. But Harper’s mom is having a hard time paying the bills and paying the rent. One day, Harper returns from school and sees that all of their belongings are sitting in their front yard. The landlord has kicked the family out. With nothing but the necessities that will fit in their car the family heads to a motel for shelter and to figure out what to do next. Harper’s dreams of finally having her poetry noticed at her school’s annual poetry contest are dashed when the “what to do next” means Harper babysitting her little brother instead of going to school.
Spending her days at the motel with Hem, her little brother, Harper slowly begins to meet the other people that are also living in the motel or in a tent city in the woods behind the motel. What do they have in common? Homelessness. This ragtag group, united as they face common enemies (poverty, unemployment, illness, homelessness) turns out to be the rock Harper and her family have been looking for. You can make a home…wherever your friends and family are, even if that home is in a motel, a shelter or a tent.
Harper is smart and self-reliant. She has a good head on her shoulders. She thinks about her family’s problems a lot, but not in a way that is whiney or all doom and gloom. She thinks about the problems so that she can problem solve. She comes up with ideas and strategies to make their situation better. This makes her a great team player within her family. Author: Ann Haywood Leal
Calder, Petra and Tommy (Chasing Vermeer, The Wright 3) are back with another puzzling art mystery. Now in 7th grade, the three go with their class to see an exhibit of Alexander Calder’s mobiles at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago. Shortly after the field trip, Calder and his Dad take a trip to England and stay in a tiny village well known for its giant garden maze. The maze is life-size, and easy to get lost in, like the maze in the last challenge in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. To Calder’s surprise, the village also has a newly installed Alexander Calder sculpture in the town square. Many people living in the village are angry about the new sculpture, some villagers even seem angry at Calder for sharing the artist’s name. The anger turns to fear, however, when the sculpture, and Calder, both disappear without a trace. Petra and Tommy are flown to England to try to help Calder’s dad and the police figure out what happened to Calder. Is he lost in the maze, or something worse? Try to solve the puzzle and find the clues with Tommy and Petra. The illustrator hid puzzles in the pictures again – see if you can solve those too! Author: Blue Balliett Illustrator: Brett Helquist
Conn is an orphan surviving the best he can picking locks, thieving and picking pockets. One night, he picks the pocket of the powerful wizard, Neverly Flinglas. Conn gets the wizard’s locus magicalicus, a stone that is the center of the magician’s power. Nevery isn’t mad that Conn tried to pick his pocket, he’s astonished that touching the magic stone didn’t kill Conn. No one else is supposed to be able to touch a wizard’s stone. Intrigued, Nevery takes on Conn as a servant and when Conn shows he indeed has a mysterious and powerful attraction to magic and magical things, Neverly makes him his apprentice.
The two of them get caught up in a magical investigation when Neverly is hired to figure out why magic is draining away from their city. This story has it all: wizards, a power hungry crime boss, friends, enemies, spying & betrayal. Nevery and Conn are both great characters. Neverly is grouchy and stern, but Conn is so endearing, smart and funny he manages to weasel his way straight into Nevery’s heart…although Neverly would never admit it. Author: Sarah Prineas
Great reading in league with Harry Potter, Septimus Heap and The Bartimaeus Trilogy.
The Irregulars, those delinquent Girl Scouts: Kiki, Ananka, Oona, Betty & Iris, are still protecting the secret city that lies beneath Manhatten. Trouble comes from an unlikely insider when it is discovered that Oona’s father is Lester Liu, the New York gangster they are protecting the secret city FROM.
The trouble is, Oona has known this all along and never told the Irregulars. Oona wants to trust that her Dad has turned over a new leaf but the Irregulars are skeptical and hatch a plan to find out what Lester is up to as well as keep an eye on Oona while she is in Lester’s mansion. Illegal immigrants, Russian operatives, an art museum and a Chinese mummy all play a part in the mystery of Lester Liu’s new life. Is he really turning into Daddy of the Year or is this just another plan to line his wealthy pockets? The Irregulars won’t stop until they find out the truth.