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Recent Reads

Al Capone Does My Shirts by Gennifer Choldenko

AR Level: 3.5              Points: 7.0

The year is 1935. The place - Alcatraz Island. Moose's dad has just gotten a job as a guard on the island, which means his whole family is moving to Alcatraz. For those of you that don't know, Alcatrez was a federal prison from 1934 through 1963. The prison held some of America's most notorious criminals. And now Moose has to live here! He is not the only kid on the island, though. His older sister Natalie does not act like much of an older sister. She is autistic (but in 1935, autism has not yet been identified). Moose spends a lot of his time watching over Natalie. There are other kids on this island too, that he is getting to know. Not only is he trying to care for his sister, but he is attending a new school, trying to fit in and make friends, and trying to get used to living in close quarters with criminals. He also meets the warden's daughter, Piper, who is always scheming, and often her plans lead to trouble. And trouble, it seems, is never far away on Alcatrez Island. Loved this book and am excited to read the rest of the series!

Zebra Forest by Adina Gewirtz

AR Level:  4.7              Points: 6.0

Annie and her brother Rew are being raised by her grandmother.  Her father died when she was younger and her mother left and has never returned.  Annie and Rew don't know much about their father, as that topic is off limits as far as Annie's grandmother is concerned.

Annie's home backs up to Zebra forest.  Annie has nicknamed it "zebra forest" as the trunks of the trees remind her of the stripes of a zebra.  Annie awakes one night to someone trying to get into the back escaped prisoner!  The county prison is on the other side of the forest, there was a riot and many prisoners escaped.  One has made their way to Annie's house.  And now, he is holding Annie and her family hostage.  But there is something to this prisoner.  What connection does he have to Annie's family?  Read this gripping novel and find out the rest of the story.

The Uglies by Scott Westerfield

AR Level: 5.2                Points:  13.0

Everybody gets to be supermodel gorgeous. What could be wrong with that?

Tally is about to turn sixteen, and she can't wait. Not for her license - for turning pretty. In Tally's world, your sixteenth birthday brings an operation that turns you from a repellent ugly into a stunningly attractive pretty and catapults you into a high-tech paradise where your only job is to have a really great time. In just a few weeks Tally will be there.

But Tally's new friend Shay isn't sure she wants to be pretty. She'd rather risk life on the outside. When Shay runs away, Tally learns about a whole new side of the pretty world and it isn't very pretty. The authorities offer Tally the worst choice she can imagine: find her friend and turn her in, or never turn pretty at all.

The choice Tally makes changes her world forever...

The Testing by Joelle Charbonneau

AR Level:  5.6               Points:  15.0

Cia has worked hard her entire schooling career for this moment.  It is graduation time.  Cia becomes an adult and hopes to get into the prestigious university.  Only a few are students are selected from each township.  It has actually been YEARS since anyone was chosen from Cia's township to attend University.  Well, all of Cia's hardwork has paid off...she is chosen!  Those chosen will be the future leaders of the country.  Cia quickly realizes that being "chosen" is not all it's cracked up to be.  When Cia arrives at the University, weeks of testing ensue.  Cia's classmates that don't pass the test dissapear without a trace.  What is happening to these classmates?  What will happen if Cia doesn't make the cut?  And even worse, what are some of Cia's university classmates willing to do in order to get to the top?  One wrong move, and the results could be...deadly!


The First Kill by Heather Brewer (The Slayer Chronicles, Book #1)

AR Level:  5.7                 Points:  11.0

Joss is just a normal kid, living a normal life, or so he thinks.  One night, he hears a noise coming from his sister’s room.  He heads to her room to see what is going on, but is too late.  His sister has been killed, and Joss happens to get a peak of the murderer, only it doesn’t seem to be human.  Of course, no one would believe this.  That is, until Joss speaks to his Uncle and realizes that within each generation of his family, one is chosen to join the Slayer Society.  Joss is the chosen one. The goal of the Slayer Society – to rid the world of vampires.  Does Joss have what it takes to join the ranks of this society?  He want to avenge his sister’s death, but at what cost? Read The First Kill to find out.    



Prairie Evers by Ellen Airgood


AR Level:  4.9                  Points:  5.0

Prairie loves her family and is especially close to her grandmother.  You can imagine how devastated she is when her grandmother moves away.  Prairie has always been homeschooled.  Her parents have now made the decision to send her to public school.  Her grandmother is gone, and now this?!  School starts off pretty rough, but things turn around when Prairie makes a new friend.  As Prairie and her new friend Ivy grow closer, Prairie learns of Ivy’s past and it breaks Prairie’s heart.  Can Prairie and her family make sure Ivy’s past does not effect her future?  Read Prairie Evers to find out.


Nest by Esther Ehrlich

AR Level:  4.4                  Points:  11.0

Chirp is a sixth grader living in Cape Cod with her fun-loving sister, mother, and father.  Her mother has recently had some medical issues and is eventually diagnosed with a serious disease.  This disease changes the family as daily life has now become a struggle.  Not only are things tough for Chirp, but they are also a struggle for the boy across the street, Joey.  Through these struggles, an unlikely friendship develops.  Chirp’s mom’s condition continues to worsen.  Not only is her mother facing this disease, but she is also battling depression.  Things come to a head when an unimaginable tragedy strikes.  How will Chirp cope?  This is a heart breaking story of love, loss, friendship, and the importance of family.     



The Girl with 500 Middle Names by Margaret Peterson Haddix

AR Level:  3.8                  Points:  2.0

Janie attends a school that is far different from Challenger.  Her textbooks are outdated, the building seems to be falling apart, her teachers don't seem to care, and the kids are so mean!  Fights seem to break out all the time.  Janie's mom has been working extra long hours to give Janie a better life.  If they can just move to another part of the city, Janie will have the opportunity to attend a much better school.  And finally, it happens!  Janie's family moves and Janie gets to attend a new school, but it is not all it is cracked up to be.  The other students seem to come from wealthy families, and Janie feels out of place.  Janie's clothes are old and too small.  She has no winter coat...she just doesn't feel like she fits.  Just when she thinks things cannot get much worse, her mom loses her job.  Now, how will they be able to afford their new home?  Janie just might have an idea.  Read to find out how Janie inspires her own mother.  She will probably inspire you as well!


Soul Surfer: A True Story of Faith, Family, and Fighting to Get Back on Board

AR Level:  6.0                     Points:  5.0

Bethany Hamilton had everything going for her.  As a young girl she was a surfer with a promising career.  She had aspirations of going pro, and already had a sponsor.  But then tragedy strikes.  While looking to catch some waves, Bethany is attacked by a shark.  Her response to the attack is inspiring and motivational.  This is the true story of surf boarder, Bethany Hamilton, written by Bethany herself.








Everlost (Book 1 of the Skinjacker Trilogy) by Neal Shusterman

AR Level:  5.6                     Points:  12.0

Nick and Allie don’t know each other….until they die.  After realizing they are no longer living, they are trying to figure out exactly where they are.  It is not Heaven, but then what is it?  It is called Everlost, and they quickly discover they are not alone.  There are many children in Everlost: some are good and some are not.  Nick and Allie want answers.  Why are they stuck here?  Is there a way out?  In their quest for the truth, they encounter many interesting “souls” along the way.  Mary Hightower is a 15 year-old stuck in Everlost.  She might just hold the key to the information that Nick and Allie so desperately want.  Nick and Allie also come across the McGill.  The McGill is a disgusting monster in Everlost who wants to destroy any who stand in his way.  Will Nick and Allie find the answers they are searching for?  If you like the paranormal, action and adventure, then this is the book for you! 


The Cay by Theodore Taylor

AR Level: 5.3                      Points:  4.0

Philip is a normal boy growing up in the 1940’s.  He lives on the small island of Curacao in the Carribean and enjoys his family, school, and friends.  All this changes when the Germans invade his small island.  His mother decides to bring Philip back to the United States, wanting to keep Philip safe and away from the war.  His father has work to do on the island.  Philip is not happy about leaving the island and his father behind.  Philip and his mother board a ship to head to the United States.  Philip never arrives in the United States, as something has gone awry.  Philip ends up blind and stranded upon an island with a man named Timothy.  This is a story of courage and survival.  It will leave you cheering for Philip and Timothy and is a great lesson in perseverance.  Read The Cay to find out more about Philip’s blindness, Timothy, and whether or not Timothy and Philip make it off the island.


The City of Ember (The First Book of Ember) by Jeanne DuPrau

AR Level:  5.0                     Points:  9.0

The City of Ember is a city that is completely underground!  There have always been lights within the city to keep the darkness at bay.  But lately…the lights have been flickering.  What will happen when the lights go out for good?  Join Doon Harrow and Lina Mayfleet as they work to uncover the mystery surrounding their city.  Will they discover the truth before it is too late?  Read the City of Ember to find out. 



On My Honor by Marion Dan Bauer

AR Level:  4.7                     Points:  2.0

Joel and Tony have been best friends for always.  Tony is always out for an adventure.  He is definitely a risk-taker.  Joel tends to play it safe, but Tony can usually convince him to do just about anything.  One day, Tony and Joel decide to take a bicycle trip to a park.  The park is quite a ways away from Tony and Joel’s home.  The route consists of many winding roads and won’t be an easy trek.  On the way there, though, Tony has one of his hair-brained ideas that their parents definitely wouldn’t approve of.  This idea changes the course of both boys’ lives.  This is an unforgettable story of friendship and loss.  You’ll have a hard time putting this book down once you start.

Bad Girls Don't Die by Katie Alender
AR Level:  4.4  AR Points:  10.0

If you like spooky stories, this is the book for you!  Alexis is a high school student dealing with some family issues:  a mom that works all the time and a father that she has a difficult time relating to.  But even stranger, is her younger sister, Kacey.  Kacey used to be so normal, but is now obsessed with these dolls and at times, doesn't even seem like herself.  After some strange events occur (doors closing, water boiling on the stove that no one turned on, an air conditioner that won't shut off), Alexis realizes that an evil force is at work, causing her sister to act in this way.  Alexis comes to realize that her family is in danger because of Kasey's actions.  Can Alexis stop Kasey before it is too late?


The Line by Terri Hall
AR Level: 5.3

When Rachel and her mother move to Mrs. Moore's house-the one with the greenhouse, right next to the Line, Rachel starts questioning things. There are so many rumors of horrible things that lie beyond the Line-in a place called Away, but no one dares to talk about it. And it's no use asking questions- especially of Mrs. Moore, who has always lived by the Line, or of her mother, who is just happy to have a place to stay, especially since Rachel's father died in the war. But then Rachel comes across a recorded message - one that could only have come from Away. And the voice on the recorder is asking for help. As things start to unravel, the question becomes, how far is Rachel willing to go to cross the Line and do the right thing?

Summary from



Blizzard of Glass: the Halifax Explosion of 1917 by Sally M. Walker

AR Level: 7.9

This is the true story of the Halifax (located in Nova Scotia, Canada) Explosion that took place in 1917.  At the time, this was the largest man made explosion to ever occur.  I find it surprising how little people know about this tragic event in history.  I read this book to find out more about the events that led to the deaths of almost 2,000 people.

This explosion was caused when two ships collided in Halifax Harbor.  This story gives the details of five families whose lives were affected by this explosion.  In this book, you will find historic pictures of the families, the ships, and the resulting devastation.  You will also hear about the heros and the sacrifices made not only by Canadians, but those in the United States as well.  This is a story of tragedy, but also a story of healing.  If you enjoy reading books about the Titanic, this is the book for you.


Hidden by Elen Frost
AR Level 3.9

When Wren Abbott and Darra Monson are eight years old, Darra's father steals a minivan. He doesn't know that Wren is hiding in the back. The hours and days that follow change the lives of both girls. Darra is left with a question that only Wren can answer. Wren has questions, too. 

Years later, in a chance encounter at camp, the girls face each other for the first time. They can finally learn the truth--that is, if they’re willing to reveal to each other the stories that they've hidden for so long. Told from alternating viewpoints, this novel-in-poems reveals the complexities of memory and the strength of a friendship that can overcome pain.

Book summary taken from


Bluefish by Pat Schmatz
AR Level 4.0

Travis is a 13 year old boy who has always struggled in school.  He has a quick temper and is in trouble a lot, often for fighting.  Travis lives with his grandfather as both his parents died when he was younger.  Travis and his grandfather have just moved and now Travis will be at a brand new school.  He misses his old home.  The last thing he wants to do is go to a new school.  But at this new school, everything changes.  Travis befriends a spunky girl named Velveeta who has many secrets of her own.  He also has an English teacher that really cares and wants to help Travis learn to read.  Will Travis dissapoint yet another teacher or will Travis finally succeed?  Will Velveeta reveal her secrets to Travis?  Read Bluefish to find out.  This books is a WIlliam Allen White award nominee for 2013-2014.

The Report Card by Andrew Clements
AR Level 4.9

Nora surprises her best friend Stephen and her parents when she comes home with her report card.  In every subject, except spelling, Nora has earned a D.  Nora acts like this is no big deal.  In fact, she is upset about the C in spelling....she wishes the grade had been lower.  Nora has always been an "average" student, and should be doing better than this.  What is going on?  As you read further, you realize that Nora is in fact a genius, but has been hiding this her entire life, not wanting to be treated differently because of it.  And the D's she earned....she did that on purpose.  But why?  Nora's parents and teachers decide to have Nora take some tests, thinking that perhaps she has a learning disability.  They are in for a shock when they discover how high her IQ actaully is.  Come on in to Challenger Library and check out this novel about friendship, truth, and the stresses of school.

The Graduation of Jake Moon by Barbara Park
AR Level: 4.5

This story is told from the perspective of a boy named Jake Moon.  Jake lives with his mother and grandfather, Skelly.  Skelly has been such an important part of Jake’s life.  He was always such a cool grandfather.  When Jake was growing up, Skelly was the room “mom” in Jake’s classroom and was always well liked by Jakes friends.  Jake has learned much from his grandfather over the years.  Well, now Skelly has Alzheimer’s and everything changes.  Instead of feeling pride in his grandfather, Jake is embarrassed by his grandfather.  Jake battles many emotions while watching his grandfather’s health decline.  This story will make you smile one minute and cry the next.   Though Skelly has Alzheimer’s and can’t even remember Jakes name, he still has an important life lesson to teach Jake.  Will Jake learn this lesson before it is too late?