The Christmas Genie by Dan Gutman disappoints because without the Christmas tie-in this book would appeal to more readers throughout the year. When a classroom discovers a belligerent genie who offers them one wish, each student tries to think of the perfect wish. Each wish is discussed for its ethical and practical value. This could lead to some great discussions of what is fair and how best to share in order to do what best serves the community.
Lawn Boy by Gary Paulsen tells of a young boy who gets a riding lawn mower for his birthday. With little else to do during the summer, he goes out to mow the lawn. Soon, neighbors are asking for his services and he is suddenly very busy and getting rich. When he meets a stock trader, his life grows even more complicated. This book will be enjoyed by kids and bring back memories for adults.
The Dream Stealer by Side Fleischman springs from a folk tale that Fleischman heard while traveling in Mexico. A strange creature comes to steal dreams. Usually this is good because the dream stealer takes bad dreams back to his home which is filled with creatures from the dreams. When he steals a little girl’s dream just when it is getting to the important part, the girl goes after her dream to get it back so she can finish it. The illustrations by Peter Sis add much to this short chapter book.
Oggie Cooder by Sarah Weeks is the story of a boy who tries to fit in without losing his real self. When an “America Has Talent” style show comes to town, he tries out with his talent for “chawing” cheese into the shapes of states. The fame that follows his performance complicates his life further as he learns who likes him just for his strange talent and the fame it has brought him.
Dying to Meet You: Book One of the 43 Old Cemetery Road Series by Kate Klise is told entirely in letters, notes, and other papers. A boy finds himself alone (or is he?) in an old house after his parents leave town. He meets an odd old author when he tries to sell the house. Perhaps the ghost who lives in one of the rooms will be what makes or breaks the sale.
The Desperado Who Stole Baseball by John H. Ritter tells of the early history of the American West as well as the history of baseball with a wild story that involves a runaway boy, Billy the Kid, and a baseball team in the midst of the Gold Rush of 1849. I know little about baseball but I found much to enjoy in this story.
Snake and Lizard by Joy Cowley is a collection of stories about a snake and a lizard who are friends who must deal with their differences and make the most of what they have in common. This is simply a charming book that is perfect for those who have just mastered chapter books.
The Secret History of Tom Trueheart by Ian Beck reveals little known history of the origins of fairy tales. It is the job of the Trueheart brothers to live the fairy tale before it can be included in a book. When all of his brothers are gone on their adventures, Tom, the youngest, is called to create a very difficult fairy tale. Those who enjoy the traditional tales will surely enjoy this book as well.
Sticks by Joan Bauer includes math, pool, and an interesting family in one compact novel. The family owns a pool hall, with grandmother serving as the wise matriarch. When it comes time to win a pool competition her grandson must use everything his father taught him plus some clever insights from his math whiz friend to secure the coveted title.
Ellie McDoodle: New Kid in School by Ruth McNally Barshaw is in some ways the girl equivalent of the Wimpy Kid (another series that is well loved for its humor). Ellie keeps a notebook of her thoughts and sketches. She has a keen eye for seeing those things that are meaningful but often overlooked. As one boy pointed out to me, the boys tend to be more sarcastic than Ellie but she makes some pretty astute observations that boys might miss.