Doyle, Roddy. A Greyhound of a Girl. (1 March 2012)
Mary's grandmother Emer is very ill and in the hospital. Her mother, Scarlett, is trying to come to terms with her inevitable death. Mary is sad that her best friend has moved away, but meets the new neighbor, Tansey, an older woman who seems somehow familiar. It turns out that Tansey is really Mary's great grandmother, who died of the flu in the 1920s, and has come back as a ghost to help Emer. When Scarlett finds out about this, she arranges for Emer to get out of the hospital for a little bit, and the four travel back to the farm where Tansey and Emer lived.
Strengths: This is a hugely atmospheric book-- I felt like I was having tea in Mary's Dublin kitchen! I didn't know that Maeve Binchy's books were particularly Irish until I read this. There is something about the cadence and the emphasis on multiple generations of families that is similar. I will look up some of Mr. Doyle's adult books.
Weaknesses This would be a hard sell. It's not a spooky ghost story, it's not quite history, and it's very gently paced. I enjoyed it a lot, though!
Smith, Greg Leitich. Chronal Engine. (20 March 2012)
When their mother gets a prestigious job on a far-flung archaeological dig, Emma, Max and Kyle have to go live with their grandfather, since their father was previously killed in Afghanistan. They haven't seen their grandfather in a long time, although he doesn't live far away, because he has checked out from humanity a bit. When the trio arrive, their grandfather tells them he is having a heart attack and that they must investigae the Chronal Engine, a time travel device, that is in his basement. With the housekeeper, Petra, the siblings are check out fossilized sneaker prints when Emma is kidnapped. They chase her back to the Cretaceous period and have to fight not only the kidnappers but a variety of dinosaurs. Luckily, Max is a huge dinosaur buff and his information saves them, even though it occasionally leads them into trouble. Will the children be able to use the time travel to their advantage... survive the dinosaurs? This seemed the like the first book in a series.
Strengths: If you have students who liked Z Rex, this might be one to have. Lots of action and adventure, and time travel with no excuses, even there are a few questions about procedure in my mind!
Weaknesses: Still having trouble selling time travel, and there wasn't something about this book that just didn't grab me, even though I normally love time travel.