one dog and his boy by Eva Ibbotson
All Hal ever wanted was a dog. But his filthy rich parents will give him anything but. This is a sweet story of longing, values, fidelity and most of all, dogs.I enjoyed the entire book until the last when the publisher tells us Ibbotson died (at 85) just before proofreading the final copy. awww.
Very good for 3rd+. British but not in the way.

Wonder by Palacio, R. J.
This should be aNewbery winner. Auggie is about to enter fifth grade after homeschooling his whole life. The story is about how people deal with physical abnormalities as Auggie has extreme facial deformities. Told from a variety of perspectives, this is a moving and realistic look at families, school, and one person's hurdles. Terrific. 4th+

Son by Lois Lowry
Almost 20 years after publishing The Giver we have the final part of Jonas' story. Claire is given the job of birthmother,(a Vessel) but at her first delivery of a product something goes wrong. Claire is no longer given the pills that suppress her feelings of love, and she develops a yearning that is undeniable for her son. This is Claire's story of seeking and eventually sacrifice. It spans three communities and many years, but each place and time has its purpose. This would be great for discussion of happiness, contentedness, values, and yes--good and evil. Feels very complete at the end. Excellent. Mature for lots of birthing issues. 5th+

About Average by Andrew Clements
Another intermediate novel by Clements that reads quickly but with a clear message and moving plot. Jordan is finishing sixth grade and realizes that there is absolutely nothing exceptional about her. Plus she has a a mean girl who taunts her endlessly. What to do. Lots of self-examination and musings on possible courses of action. 3rd +. Very good.


Citizen Dog: a Comic Strip Collection by Mark O'Hare
Mel (the man) and his dog Fergus have a love/hate relationship. Fergus speaks (unlike Garfield), and Mel is a bit goofy. I wasn't impressed, but it was OK. No language or off-color humor. Middle school for some adult oriented stuff. Meh.

The Crown of Embers by Rae Carson (sequel to The Girl of Fire and Thorns)
Elisa has become queen but all is not well in her kingdom. There are assassins who continue to surprise her, and her own country's leaders are all suspect. Only Hector seems trustworthy, and he is aloof. This is an excellent sequel with lots of complications, dangers, and love polygons. The story has deep ruminations on love, sacrifice, leadership, power, and beauty. Surprises right up to the last page. Excellent. YA for violence and sexual situations. (Elisa take LadiesShroud to prevent pregnancy. But nothing explicit. The sexual discussions are thoughtful.)

Graveyard Shift by Chris Westwood
This came from the Scholastic bookfair because I had so much money I bought everything. It's not great. It is set in contemporary England and Ben Harvester (could the name be any more "meaningful"?) sees ghosts. He is chosen to be a helper to move these disembodied spirits on to their resting place. The premise is OK, but the story just doesn't carry the reader. Mom has some form of cancer and Dad is missing. Becky befriends Ben but plays a minimal part in moving the plot. I only finished this because a student suggested it didn't need to be YA. There is nothing objectionable, but I'm leaving it as YA because the existential pieces are too confusing for elementary. Ick.
Other books with better similar plots: Son by Lowry, (dealing with demons) or A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness (mother with cancer)

Dumpling Days by Grace Lin
a fictionalized memoir of Pacy Lin who goes back to Taiwan to visit for a month and celebrate her grandmother's auspicious 60th birthday. With her older sister Lissy and her younger sister KiKi, she has memorable experiences usually involving food. She also comes to some self--awareness concerning who exactly she is--American? Taiwanese American? Twinkie (brown on the outside, white on the inside)? Not simple and often involving bad feelings. This is not heavy weight, but a thoughtful story. 3rd+ (lots of metaphors and similes by the way) Very good. Possibly too slow for a read aloud.

The Fire Chronicle Book Two of The Books of Beginning by John Stephens
This is certainly action packed. The three children are seeking the second book, the book of Life, after finding the Emerald Atlas that allows them to time travel. Kate travels to 1899 NYC and is stuck after being rescued by Rafe, a revenge-seeking orphan. Lots of complications here and Michael and Emma continue on seeking Book Two deep in the Antarctic ice. This is classically fantasy/battle stuff. I'm not fond of the reincarnation theories. And the sacrifices Michael makes are quite moving, but lean toward the idea of the saviour actually becoming the sinner--not OK with me. Many will like this for the adventure. 5th+

"Who Could That Be at This Hour?" by Lemony Snicket
Book One of "All the Wrong Questions" Yes this is classic Snicket. Lots of vocabulary pauses and literary allusions. Phrases like, "You must be all a-tingle...but I did not feel all a-tingle, I did not feel all a-anything." LS is an apprentice to the worst whateversheis (spy, detective, who knows?) in the mentor set. Like his other books, this is full of absurdities but delightful twists. Lemony has promised to return the Bombinating Beast statue to its rightful owner, but it gets very very complicated. I could read this one again. Excellent 4th+