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by Wendy Mass
written for ages 9-12 | highly recommended
published in 2010 | Scholastic Press | 304 pages

I didn't expect to enjoy this book so much! It's even better than the first in the series, 11 Birthdays. It had me laughing with tears in my eyes - growing up was just like this. And what a great thread running through the story, not forced or preachy but so wise.

Young Rory Swenson has been waiting to turn twelve her whole life. She can pierce her ears when she's twelve. She can go to the mall with her friends when she's twelve. She can babysit little Timmy next door when she's twelve. She can get a cell phone when she's twelve. She can even ride in the front passenger-side seat when she's twelve. And now that day has finally arrived.

And what follows is simply hillarious. There are a few wincing moments - Rory is always managing to injure herself and you really feel her pain - so it's not for a squeamish young reader. And while Rory has a… click here to read whole article and make comments



The Queen’s Thief Series

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The Thief
by Megan Whalen Turner
written for ages 11-14 | highly recommended
published in 2005 | Greenwillow Books | 304 pages

Gen is a thief and proud of it and this lands him in prison. Now the only way out is to prove once and for all that what he has bragged is true; that he can steal anything.

This review will be as brief as possible. To write more would simply give the game away. There are some marvels that should be experienced first-hand, like this book. Usually, when I describe a plot as unpredictable, I take into account the expectations of the target audience. With The Thief however, I can truly say that I believe no one could see the ending coming. If you can, without peeking, then I take my hat off to you.

The Thief is easily the most inventive novel for this age group that I have read in a year. Turner, who was rightfully recommended to publishers by Diana Wynne Jones, is an accomplished writer with astounding imagination. She combines the epochs of Ancient Greece… click here to read whole article and make comments



Small Acts of Amazing Courage

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Small Acts of Amazing Courage
by Gloria Whelan
written for ages 13-16 | highly recommended
published in 2011 | Simon & Schuster | 224 pages

Here is an extraordinary little book that draws you to its warm-hearted characters and introduces you to a part of history that called for great changes, which were achieved through 'small acts of amazing courage'. It is a delight and an eye-opener at the same time.

It settles you with a colonial family living in India in 1919, immediately after World War I, at the time when Ghandi was beginning his peaceful demonstrations to free Indians from British rule.

Rosalind is the fifteen year old daughter of a British Army General and his wife who have been stationed in India her whole life. Rosalind loves the people, the colour and the excitement of her adoptive country, and though her father would have her properly educated in British ways she can't help but absorb India's vibrancy.

The young Lieutenant Max Nelson was studying at Cambridge when he joined the war and served under Rosalind's father. Max's parents live… click here to read whole article and make comments



Great Grandfather’s House

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Great Grandfather's House
by Rumer Godden
written for ages 7-10 | recommended
published in 1993 | Greenwillow | 76 pages

Keiko is a spoiled little girl who throws a fit when she learns she must go to live with her great grandparents for a few months while her parents are away. Separated from city life and her toys, she learns to appreciate the simplicity of the Japanese countryside and to love the wisdom of her elders. The book's exquisite illustrations make the reader feel that he/she is in Japan with Keiko.

Jennifer Minicus is a mother and teacher currently living in Ridgewood, NJ.

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Artemis Fowl Series

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Artemis Fowl
by Eoin Colfer
written for ages 9-12 | recommended
published in 2001 | Disney-Hyperion Books

Artemis Fowl is a genius . . . a criminal genius. His greatest achievement? He has discovered that the Faerie actually exist.

These books are light and not at all mentally taxing to read. However, thanks to a variety of short sentences, some well chosen technical jargon and scientific trivia (that perhaps only a genius would know or could prove) they are also fast-paced, humorous and entertaining. The plot leaps and bounds with a pleasant unpredictability all the while proving that Artemis Fowl is indeed a genius in every sense of the word. They are the perfect reads for boys and girls of this age and perhaps a little older, who like to have a healthy dose of unpredictable action.

What is most impressive about this series is the way in which it traces the evolution of its titular character from the age of twelve to adulthood or, perhaps more accurately, from villain to hero. Artemis takes a realistic internal journey,… click here to read whole article and make comments



The Adventures of the Borrowers

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The Borrowers, The Borrowers Afield, The Borrowers Afloat, The Borrowers Aloft, The Borrowers Avenged
by Mary Norton
written for ages 9-12 | recommended
published in 2003 (1953) | Sandpiper

Pod, Homily and Arriety Clock live under the floorboards of a house, borrowing from the humans to clothe, furnish and feed themselves. They are seen by a boy who befriends them, but discovered by the less friendly housekeeper, and are forced to flee the house.

In the second book of the series, they move into another home with their relatives but eventually must leave as the humans who live there are going. In book three, they take to the river in Spiller's kettle, making for the legendary model village of Upper Fordham. Grounded at one point, they are almost caught by Mild Eye the gipsy, but manage to escape.  Books four and five continue their adventures.

A lighthearted classic children's series, portraying matter-of-factly the Borrowers: Pod, the protective father, Homily the houseproud mother, and Arriety the teenager yearning to go outside.

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The Unforgotten Coat

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The Unforgotten Coat
by Frank Cottrell Boyce
written for ages 9-12 | recommended
published in 2011 | Candlewick | 112 pages

I knew I would love this little book as soon as I saw the photo on the first page: four middle school-aged children in their uniforms, posing for the camera with goofy grins on their faces. Boyce actually tells this touching story of compassion and loyalty through a series of snapshots presumably taken on a beat up Polaroid. Julie finds the photos in the pocket of an old coat, left hanging on a hook at her former school. The coat belonged to Chingis. Chingis and his younger brother, Nergui, had immigrated to England from Mongolia when Julie was still in school. They chose her to be their "good guide" in their new environment.

Julie took seriously her responsibilities of introducing Chingis and Nergui to western culture. She learned that there is more to life than boys and make-up and avidly absorbed everything Chingis and Nergui told her about Mongolia. For her part, Julie explained the ins and outs of middle… click here to read whole article and make comments



Reading Matters’ 100 Books for Christmas 2011

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Here are some suggestions for young and not-so-young readers.  Many thanks to for contributing to our list.

Ages 2-7

1. Art & Max, David Wiesner

2. Boy Wonders, Calef Brown

3. Can I Cuddle the Moon?, Kerry Brown

4. Grandpa Green, Lane Smith

5. Interrupting Chicken, David Ezra Stein

6. It's a book, Lane Smith

7. Kimonos, Annelore Parot

8. Love Mouserella, David Ezra Stein

9. More!, Peter Schossow

10. Over the Rainbow, Judy Collins

11. Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star, Jerry Pinkney

12. The Rainbow Book, Kate Ohrt

13. A Small Miracle, Peter Collington

14. Starry, Starry Night, Sarah Kate Mitchell

15. When You Wish Upon a Star, Judy Collins

Ages 7-10

16. The Adventures of Pinocchio, Carlo Collodi (illustrated by Roberto Innocenti)

17. Alvin Ho: Allergic to Camping, Hiking and Other Natural Disasters, Lenore Look

18. Dark Emperor and Other Poems of the Night, Joyce Sidman

19. The Drinking Gourd, F.N. Monjo

20. The Empty Pot, Demi

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The Magician’s House Quartet Series

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The Magician's House Quartet
by William Corlett
written for ages 9-12 | recommended with reservations
published in 2011 (1991) | Simon Pulse

This is a series of four books, written intentionally as a series. The books are: The Steps Up the Chimney The Door in the Tree The Tunnel Behind the Waterfall The Bridge in the Clouds In them the three Constant children: William, Mary and Alice spend their holidays at Golden House with their uncle and aunt while their parents are doing relief work in the Third World. They team up with the magician who used to live in the house in order to protect themselves from various forms of attack, including the magician's evil apprentice and modern-day developers.

A mediocre series from the point of view of the plot lines. The characters are fairly well fleshed out, and there is some nice interplay between the children and the animals whose bodies they inhabit temporarily. The trouble is that, whereas ecology and concern for wildlife are uppermost, the fact that the childrens' vegetarian aunt and uncle aren't married is passed off… click here to read whole article and make comments



Turtle in Paradise

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Turtle in Paradise
by Jennifer L. Holm
written for ages 9-12 | recommended with reservations
published in 2011 | Yearling | 208 pages

Toughened by a rough life, eleven-year-old Turtle has learned to take care of her mother, Sadiebelle. Sadiebelle works hard cleaning houses, so she and Turtle are managing during the Depression. The problem is she cannot stop "falling in love". As a matter of fact, Turtle has spent her short life watching her mother's heart break time after time as one man after another came and went from their lives. Archie is different, though. He surely will keep his promise of striking it rich as a traveling salesman and marry Sadiebelle. Until he does, Turtle will have to live in the Florida Keys with the cousins she never knew.

Turtle learns about her mother's childhood on the islands. She meets Sadiebelle's older sister and brother-in-law who struggle to keep their family together. She conquers her grandmother who apparently hates children-but falls in love with Turtle. Finally, Turtle becomes acquainted with "Slow Poke", a neighbor whose kindness leads her to believe that… click here to read whole article and make comments


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Reading Matters is MercatorNet’s blog about children’s literature. Our goal is to enable parents and educators to find quality books for young people. For an explanation of our evaluation system, click here. We welcome reader input and new reviewers. We love comments on the book reviews. Write to us at

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acceptable: not outstanding but not problematic
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