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Winding Oak's Bookology Magazine

Capers and Cons

When you (or your students) want a book that keeps you turning the pages for your weeknight and weekend reading, here are some suggestions for books with that nimble pacing and what-are-they-up-to plots. Many of them are just right for middle grade or avid younger-than-that readers, with a couple of teen titles added. (And, of course, all are suitable for reading by adults.)

Adam Canfield of the Slash  

Adam Canfield of the Slash
written by Michael Winerip
Candlewick Press, 2005

This book is by turns funny and serious, but Adam Canfield is always interested in discovering the truth. Written by a New York Times columnist (on education) who won a Pulitzer Prize, Winerip knows what his readers will find interesting. Adam reluctantly accepts the position of co-editor of their school paper. He’s skeptical when a third-grader uncovers a possible scandal. Adam and his co-editor, Jennifer, take the story to the principal, who forbids them to investigate. Adam and Jennifer can’t help themselves and they’re soon uncovering secrets.  Even though school papers are mostly digital now, this book will motivate readers to be truth seekers.

Con Academy  

Con Academy
written by Joe Schreiber
HMH Books for Young Readers, 2015

For teen readers: Senior Michael Shea has conned his way into one of the country’s elite prep schools. He’s an old hand at cons, but he’s unprepared to meet Andrea, his competition. When the two of them set up a competition to con the school’s Big Man on Campus out of $50,000, the stakes are high. One twist after another, a full crew of grifters brought in to effect the con … this book reads cinematically and moves along quickly.

Eddie Red Undercover: Doom at Grant's Tomb  

Eddie Red Undercover: Doom at Grant’s Tomb
written by Marcia Wells, illustrated by Marcos Calo
HMH Books for Young Readers, 2016

Having just finished the third book in the series, I’m a fan of the youngest investigator working for the NYPD. There’s a back story for that, of course, but Eddie has an eidetic memory and a quicksilver mind … he’s good at solving crimes. The police are always reluctant to involve Eddie because he’s only 12 years old, but the kid’s good at what he does. In this installment, it appears that Eddie is being targeted for serious consequences by international art thieves whom he’s foiled before. The thieves are stealing valuable items from well-known landmarks. Can Eddie psych them out before they catch up with him?

 

Framed!

 

Framed!
written by James Ponti
Aladdin, 2016

Jess Aarons has been practicing all summer so he can be the fastest runner in the fifth grade. And he almost is, until the new girl in school, Leslie Burke, outpaces him. The two become fast friends and spend most days in the woods behind Leslie’s house, where they invent an enchanted land called Terabithia. One morning, Leslie goes to Terabithia without Jess and a tragedy occurs. It will take the love of his family and the strength that Leslie has given him for Jess to be able to deal with his grief.

Illyrian Adventure  

Illyrian Adventures
written by Lloyd Alexander
Dutton Books, 1987

This is the first of six books about 16-year-old Vesper Holly who, in 1872, in the company of her guardian, Binnie, travels to Illyria on the Adriatic Sea to prove one of her late father’s theories. She’s a girl with modern sensibilities set against Binnie’s conservative concerns. Vesper gets caught up in fast-paced intrigue with a rebellion against the king, all the while managing to search for the legendary treasure. With Mr. Alexander’s characteristic humor, and a touch of romance, this series is fun to read and definitely qualifies as a turn-the-page adventure.

Jack London and the Klondike Gold Rush  

Jack London and the Klondike Gold Rush
written by Peter Lourie, illustrated by Wendell Minor
Henry Holt, 2017

Teens will enjoy this one. When Jack London turns 21, the Gold Rush of 1897 compels treasure seekers from around the world to trek through life-threatening conditions to get to the gold fields in the Yukon Territory of Canada. Jack is swept up in the excitement, assembling a team of adventurers and supplies to withstand the cruel journey. That someone this young could command respect and camaraderie speaks loudly about his character. This true story serves as an excellent companion books for Call of the Wild and White Fang, Jack London’s Klondike stories. A real page-turner.

Magic Misfits  

Magic Misfits
written by Neill Patrick Harris, illus by Lissy Marlin
Little, Brown Books, 2017

This thoroughly enjoyable book follows Carter when he runs away from his crooked, thieving uncle to the New England town of Mineral Wells, a surprisingly welcoming place. Convinced that magic isn’t real, and yet a talented street magician, Carter is soon befriended by a group of Magic Misfits who set out to expose a circus that’s a front for a well-orchestrated, and dangerous, team of grifters. Adventurous, funny, heartwarming, this will capture readers’ imaginations. 

Mighty Jack  

Mighty Jack
written and illustrated by Ben Hatke
First Second, 2016

Mighty Jack and the Goblin King
written and illustrated by Ben Hatke
First Second, 2017

In the first book, Jack’s sister Maddy persuades him to trade their Mom’s car for a box of mysterious seeds … and the adventure begins. These are not, of course, ordinary seeds. They grow strange, otherworldly creatures and the kids, including next-door-neighbor Lilly, are challenged to deal with creatures run amok.

In the second book, an ogre snatches Maddy into another world with Jack and Lilly determined to rescue her. Along the way, we meet goblins (good) and ogres (bad) and Lilly fulfills a prophecy. It’s all very exciting and well-told with vibrant, engrossing illustrations.

Parker Inheritance  

Parker Inheritance
written by Varian Johnson
Arthur A. Levine Books / Scholastic, 2018

In modern-day Lambert, Candice discovers a mystery in her grandmother’s letters. In the 1950s, her grandmother left Lambert in shame, but it’s soon apparent to Candice and her friend Brandon that racism was behind those events … and they reflect that things haven’t changed that much. Reading this book will bring your creative problem-solving skills into play. There’s intrigue, humor, and a lot to think about in this story. 

Player King  

Player King
written by Avi
Atheneum, 2017

In 1846, young Lambert Simnel slaves away in a London tavern, completely unaware of the politics of the land.  When he’s purchased in the middle of the night by a friar, he’s astounded when the man reveals, “You, Lambert, are actually Prince Edward, the true King of England!” King Henry VII has just claimed the throne of England, but only after Prince Edward, who has a truer claim, disappears. Could Lambert be the real prince? How could he not remember this? Based on a blip in history, this is a fascinating look at a confidence job planned by politicians whose lives are at stake.

Riddle in Ruby  

Riddle in Ruby
written by Kent Davis
Greenwillow Books, 2015

In an alternate history colonial Philadelphia, Ruby Teach is training to be a thief and a guardian of secrets. It isn’t until she meets young Lord Athen that she begins to understand that her entire life has been kept secret from the powers that be. In this world, those powers use alchemy to fuel the Industrial Revolution. It’s a fast-paced, funny, and compelling book, the first of a trilogy, with The Changer’s Key and The Great Unravel providing the rest of the story.

Supernatural Sleuthing Service  

Supernormal Sleuthing Service
written by Gwenda Bond and Christopher Rowe,
illustrated by Glenn Thomas
Greenwillow Books, 2017

Stephen and his dad are moving cross-country so Dad can be the new executive chef at the New Harmonia, a New York City hotel for supernormals (read: monsters!) It isn’t long before Stephen discovers he’s part supernormal himself! When Stephen is framed for stealing a valuable heirloom, he teams up with two new friends to prove his innocence. It’s a spooky story, filled with humor and hijinks, and there’s a second book, The Sphinx’s Secret. You know the right reader for these books!

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