Petrucha, Stefan. Split.
The reason Petrucha's writing is so brilliant is that he tackles material that falls in the high school range philosophically, but is middle school appropriate. Perfect for my 8th graders. In Split, Wade is torn between being a hard working student intent on getting a scholarship and keeping his alcoholic father from falling apart, and pursuing his music while living in a dive. Turns out, he's doing both-- after his mother's death, his reality has split. Which is the better course? There are problems in both realities, and soon his two worlds collide. Both scenarios have intrigue and suspense, and the idea of personal identity is investigated in a completely fresh way. This made my head hurt a little (Like the Time Tripper Quartet did), but in a good way. I'd love to have dinner with Mr. Petrucha and discuss time travel and alternative realities. Maybe he has these wonderful insights into the subject because he has really come here from the future...
Poblocki, Dan. The Stone Child.
I would love to know what authors Mr. Poblocki read as a child, because his book read very familiarly. It will be a huge hit, and I'm thrilled to see other titles in the works. Eddie and his family move to Gatesweed so that his mother can write and his father can open an antique store. But right away, something is not right in the town. After his car is attacked by a monster (which his parents think was a bear), Eddie finds out that Gatesweed was the home of his favorite author, Nathaniel Olmstead, who has been missing for 13 years. When he finds an unpublished manuscript by this author and starts to read it, the events in the book become real. It's up to Eddie and his friends to figure out how monsters are coming into their world and stop them from taking over. This was a hugely atmospheric book to read on a rainy day, and out me in mind of Betty Ren Wright and John Bellairs-- we are asked to suspend disbelief right away. Looking forward to The Nightmarys, coming out in August 2010. There is a huge need for horror books for middle grade students, and this hit the spot.
Unfortunately, there were three that just weren't quite right for my library.
Promitzer, Rebecca. The Pickle King.
Reminiscent of Canned and Grooves, this would be good for fourth graders who are really good readers. It has plenty of gross moments, but since I canned move the aforementioned books, I think I will pass on buying this one. From the publisher: "During an endlessly rainy summer in the town of Elbow, twelve-year-old Bea and her misfit friends solve an unlikely mystery involving an unidentified dead man who is missing an eye, an evil surgeon, a ring shaped like an old castle, a bag of smelly intestines, and a helpful ghost."
Lowell, Pamela. Spotting for Nellie.
To be honest, part of the reason I am not buying this one was the fact that it was about two sisters who get into a car accident, and their names are Claire and Nellie. My daughters are Claire and Nell. Argh! Also, this is more of a high school book. The accident is the girl's own fault-- drinking and driving and taking off one's seat belt rarely ends well-- and the introspection makes for a slower paced story than my students seem to want. From the publisher: "After a terrible car accident leaves her sister brain-injured, sixteen-year-old Claire struggles with guilt for the accident, helping her sister recover, and boyfriend problems."
Shimko, Bonnie. The Private Thoughts of Amelia E. Rye.
Went back and forth on this one. Liked the cover, liked the description, started it and couldn't get into it. Read a few reviews which sounded promising and picked it up again; didn't like any of the characters and although it was set in New York State, it felt very "quirky Southern". The 1960s setting will be a hard sell, so I think I'll pass. From the publisher: "Growing up in a small town in upstate New York during the 1960s, a young girl, unwanted by her mother, searches for love and acceptance."