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Featured Junior Fiction

Written by Super User. Posted in Staff Picks


By David Ives (J Ives)

content.chilifreshEscaping his mother’s civilized plans, Billy Christmas runs off to the Wild West and becomes a letter-writer and mail-carrier-of-sorts to both cowboys and Indians, while trying to steer clear of those pesky, hot-tempered gunfighters.  When the “e” falls off his sign, Billy becomes Scrib to all those who use his services.  After receiving several death threats, Scrib decides to find another line of work, with mixed results.  Grammar junkies will find this imaginative spelling (Scrib uses his “instinks” to reunite a rancher with his “full-upuous” lady love) and phonetically-inventive idioms particularly delightful.



One Dog and His Boy 

By Eva Ibbotson (J Ibbotson)

One Dog The dog is the star of this book, with his doggy friends important characters. Hal is a boy who always wanted a dog, but his parents are more concerned about social status and lives of luxury. Hal finds his perfect dog, a mixed breed, and he doesn’t know it is only rented and must be returned. But the boy and dog find a way to get together, aided by a girl near Hal’s age.  The book has plenty of evil characters and narrow escapes for an exciting read.
This book was published shortly after the author’s death.

Reviewed by Patricia 

The Silver Bowl 

By Diane Stanley (J Stanley)

The Silver BowlAt seven years old, Molly is a rough and tumble girl who is called to her mother’s bedside before her father delivers her to the castle to work as a scullery maid. Her mother tells her to hide the visions she has, and she gives her a silver necklace that she it to keep hidden and it will protect her. After years in the kitchen, she is promoted to help polish the silver. An intricate and beautiful silver bowl she polishes warns her about threats to the lives of the royal family. She and her friend Tobias risk all to save the last prince. As the book begins in her childhood and extends to the age where she has romantic interests, it will also be enjoyed by teen readers.

Reviewed by Pat


By Carl Hiassen (J Hiassen)

ChompThe Crane family operates a wildlife refuge in the Florida everglades. The animals, including a large alligator, are sometimes used for television shows, but Mr. Crane is quite particular about his animals. Since his head injury sustained in an unusually hard freeze when a frozen stiff lizard fell out of a tree and hit him, there has been very little work.

Wahoo Crane helps his father with an animal wrangling job for a survival T.V. show because they need the money or they will lose their house. Wahoo needs to make sure this great-paying job works out. It doesn’t help that the star of the show is a big fake that doesn’t realize the danger he puts himself in. Wahoo’s father is volatile, especially where his animals are concerned and now Wahoo has another responsibility. A girl from school is being beat up by her father and needs a place to hide out. Wahoo takes her with them on location for the filming. A gun-toting father isn’t far behind.

Reviewed by Patricia 

Cold Cereal

By Adam Rex (J Rex)

Cold CerealScott is new to the company town owned by the world’s most famous cereal producer. Unfortunately, the advertising for a little magic in every box is true, and the magic is stolen from the inhabitants of fairy who are kidnapped and then drained. Scott has the rare gift to be able to see the beings from fairy without the aid of the special glasses used by the bad guys from the cereal company.

At school, Scott befriends a set of twins —a smart boy with a genius twin sister who looks nothing like him—and it seems they’re part of a cereal-company experiment. All becomes dangerously complex, and nothing is really resolved in what must be a new series.

The author is the creative genius behind two very funny poetry books, Frankenstein Makes a Sandwich and Other Stories You’re Sure to Like and Frankenstein Takes the Cake, both found in J 811 R 329 and in the library’s read-a-long collection.

He’s also the illustrator for the hilarious The Dirty Cowboy by Amy Timberlake (P-Timberlake) and the author/illustrator of the picture book Pssst!, a story of an unusual visit to the zoo (P Rex).

Reviewed by Patricia Castelli

Gorilla City (The Amazing Adventures of Charlie Small)

By Charlie Small

Middle school readers who like the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series can find numerous read-alikes to try, some in diary format and some not. Many have girl protagonists, like Jim Benton’s Dear Dumb Diary series and Ruth McNally Barshaw’s Ellie McDoodle. Some have multiple voices, like Jim Angleberger’s funny The Strange Case of Origami Yoda or Kate Klise’s Regarding the-- series. Yet many fans of the Wimpy Kid books are much younger than the sixth-grade protagonist of that series and might relate better to a character like Charlie Small, an eight-year-old who, in a series of books, records in his diary how he has been alive for hundreds of years surviving death-defying adventures at every turn. Reads at the pace of a choose-your-own-adventure novel, with crocodile wrestling, snake attacks, rhino rides, and gorilla kidnappings. 

Reviewed by Amanda Ashton

Soldier Bear

By Bibi Dumon Tak (J Dumon Tak) 

Soldier Bear is a WWII novel based on a true story about Polish soldiers who walk from German-occupied Poland to Iran to join the British Army. In Iran, they adopt a baby bear cub that is almost dead from starvation. They put milk in an empty Vodka bottle. The bear sleeps with the soldiers, and even when it grows to six-feet, still sleeps by sucking on his adopted mother's fingers.  An officer, impressed by the bear taking its place in a munitions hand-off line, issued an emblem for the berets, trucks, etc. of the transport company of the 2nd Polish Corps of a bear holding a large munitions shell. While there are a few details of the horrors of war, this book is, overall, heartwarming. It is rare to find a children's book with all adult characters. I believe this book would appeal to adults as well.
It was originally written in Dutch. The Batchelder is an ALA award for the best book translated into English for young readers.

Reviewed by Pat Castelli

Check out some more staff favorites from 2011:
  • Kat, Incorrigible 
  • Okay for Now 
  • Lost & Found 
  • The Penderwicks at Point Mouette 
  • The End of Time 
  • Fly Trap 
  • The Hidden Gallery 
  • Romeo and Juliet Code

Inside Out & Back Again

By Thanhha Lai

Inside out and back againThis novel in verse is about a young Vietnamese girl. All her ten years she has known war, her father missing and presumed dead. But in 1975 the war is closing in on Saigon, and she boards a ship with her mother and brothers to find a new life in America. They are sponsored by a family in Alabama, and thus begins her new life in a strange land where everyone speaks English.

Reviewed by Patricia Castelli

The Fires Beneath the Sea

By Lydia Millet (Call #: J Millet)

The FiresFires Beneath the Sea Beneath the Sea is the first in a new series for young readers that promises to deliver adventure, mystery, and a few good scares. Cara is 13 and trying to understand why her mother disappeared a few months before, vanishing from her research station where she was studying how climate change impacted the sea. Cara goes to the beach with her friend, and while swimming, she gets a mysterious message to consult a tortoise. Her younger brother Jax is 10 with a rare ability to read minds, both human and not. What the two of them discover is that their mother disappeared to protect them from danger. The first threat shows up at their house, a creature the kids call the “pouring man,” as scary a villain as ever seen in children’s literature.

Reviewed by Patricia Castelli

Lost & Found

By Shaun Tan (Call #: J Tan)

Tan, an Australian artist, became well known with The Arrival, the award-winning, wordless graphic novel about the immigration experience in alien landscapes.

Three short stories/graphic novels make up this collection. The first story, "The Red Tree" is also available in picture book format, published in 2003 in Vancouver.  It’s a surreal, largely graphic, description of depression. Imaginative and weird gizmos populate "Lost and Found," a story that addresses finding one’s place in the world.  “The Rabbits” is an abstract statement about the overpowering of one ecosystem and culture by another. All fabulous!

Shaun Tan won a 2011 Academy Award in Short Film (animated) for the film version of "Lost and Found." In March of 2011, he won children's literature's most lucrative award (about $1,000,000), the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award 2011 given by Sweden for excellence in children's literature. He followed those awards with the "Best Artist" Hugo, awarded for excellence in Science Fiction.

Reviewed by Patricia Castelli 

The Strange Case of Origami Yoda

By Tom Angleberger (J Angleberger)

Is the origami Yoda sitting on Wayne’s finger really giving wise advice? The main narrator of the story, Tommy, is trying to figure out that question scientifically by collecting stories about Yoda’s advice. He comments on each story, as does the cynic Harvey. His friend Kellen added the doodles. Wayne is considered too out of it to give good advice, so is Yoda real and Wayne just talks for him? Tommy is anxious to know because there is a girl he likes. He needs Yoda’s advice. 141 pages

2010 Kirkus Best Books

Reviewed by Patricia Castelli

Boom! (or 70,000 light years) 

By Mark Haddon (J Haddon)

The original title of this book was Gridzbi Spudvetch! but it’s found new life in this U.S. publication. Jimbo and his best friend Charlie have discovered that two of their teachers are aliens—not friendly ones. Trouble ensues.  One thing leads to another and both Jimbo and Charlie are in mortal danger.  This is a wacky book where both boys have wacky parents and the boys themselves take crazy risks. All-in-all, the book is a trip. 

Reviewed by Patricia Castelli 

Heart of a Samurai: Based on the True Story of Manjiro Nakahama

By Margi Preus (J Preus)

           Manjiro is 14 when his fishing boat is driven far from the coast of Japan by a storm and wrecked on a deserted island. He is the youngest of the five companions, and they struggle to survive without adequate food or water. When rescued by a whaling ship, Manjiro is at first fearful of the barbarians that have taken him on board, but he is befriended by the captain and becomes the first Japanese to come to America.

            The extraordinary life of a simple fisherman is transformed when Manjiro learns to read and write in English. He also learns the principles of navigation on the high seas. Japan was isolationist for 250 years at the time Manjiro makes his way back to Japan as a young man. The isolation was enforced by putting to death anyone that might have been influenced by the greater world. Manjiro and his companions know the risk when they return to their homeland, but Manjiro is able to convince the local authorities of their need to know more of the western world. Because of his knowledge, he is made a Samurai, unheard of for a commoner in his day.

2011 Newbery Honor

Reviewed by Patricia Castelli

Moon over Manifest 

By Clare Vanderpool (J Vanderpool) 

Abilene Tucker has ridden the rails with her father as he looks for work for about as long as she can remember. But now it is 1936, and he decides it is time she has a home.  He sends her alone to Manifest, the small town where he settled in his teen years. She knows no one in that small Kansas town, but she follows her father’s  instructions to find the man who also took him in years ago. There she stays in a room that was once her father’s and under a loose floorboard she finds treasures from the past and hints about a mystery that remains unsolved. She listens to the stories told by long-time residents, and she goes through newspaper articles from 1918 looking for hints of her father’s past. Soon it is clear that someone doesn’t want her asking questions about things that are better forgotten.

2011 Newbery Award Winner 

Reviewed by Pat 

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