Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH by Robert C. O’Brien

“Timothy was much worse.  His eyes looked wild and strange from the fever; he trembled continuously, and each breath he took sounded like a gasp for life.”

This book is a delightful fantasy about a widowed mouse, Mrs. Frisby, and her four small children who live in the garden of Farmer Fitzgibbon.  The problem is that soon Mr. Fitzgibbon will plow up the garden, and Timothy, the smallest mouse, is too sick to move to the summer quarters.

After Mrs. Frisby saves a young crow from Dragon, the cat, Jeremy tells her to go to the owl for advice on how to solve this dilemma.  Bravely, she does just that, and the owl tells her to, “Go to the rats!”

When she courageously enters the rats entrance in the rosebush, she meets the biggest rat she has ever seen!  Brutus won’t let her go into the rats’ tunnel!  What should she do?  She is helped when Mr. Ages, a white mouse, comes to the rats’ home.  He takes her to meet Nicodemus and some of the other rats

The amazing story she hears from the rats includes some revelations about Mr. Frisby that are new to her.  And the rats have a plan to help her, but it’s not without danger!

My students always loved this book when I read it too them.  Jill always liked this story as a middle schooler!  Boys and girls will enjoy it!  There are several sequels which continue the story including:  Racso and the Rats of NIMH, and R-T, Margaret, and the Rats of NIMH.  These books are written by Jane Leslie Conly who is Robert C. O’Brien’s daughter.

Escape From Mr. Lemoncello’s Library by Chris Grabenstein

“Knowledge not shared remains unknown.”  Mr. Lemoncello

Kyle Keeley is a 12-year-old who LOVES winning games!  He gets grounded in the first chapter for breaking a window in order to beat his older brothers in a game!  So, when he hears about the contest to win a lock-in at the brand new 500 million dollar library—he quickly enters.  His entry in the “Why I’m Excited About the New Public Library” isn’t exactly stellar—so he tries to send Mr. Lemoncello an e-mail.  His e-mail is returned to him with a “bong bong”, but when the names of the 12 contestants are read, Kyle is in!

The library is unbelievable, complete with a Wonder Dome and holograms of famous people!  The contest—find your way out of the library!  You can’t use any regular exits or fire exits!  There are clues to be found, and the competition is intense!  Mr. Lemoncello, the man who paid for the new library makes some appearances to the kids in the competion.

Kyle and his best friend, Akimi, team up, and they are soon in a battle with Charles Chiltingon whose motto is “Knowledge is Power” as well as, “We eat losers for breakfast!”  It isn’t long before there are two teams working against each other.  Who will be the winner?

My middle school book club loved this book!  The games are exciting and the reader gets caught up in the puzzles!  It’s a great read for boys and girls!

Malcolm at Midnight by W.H. Beck

“A lot happens in school when the teachers aren’t looking.  Sincerely, Your Student”

This is a great story about what happens after hours in an elementary school.  The characters are the classroom pets.  You also meet Mr. Birney, the 5th grade teacher, Ms. Brumble, the cleaning lady, as well as some of the students.

Malcom is the rat in the 5th grade room.  He is so small that Mr. Birney actually thinks he’s a “mouse” horror of horrors!  Malcolm is new to the school, and when he gets out of his cage on his first night in the McKenna Elementary School—his adventure begins!  He puts his tail inthe aquarium to catch a fish, and the fish catches him and hurls him across the room!  Next, he encounters the Midnight Academy and all the animals who meet secretly to keep the school safe at night!

There is also a mystery in the school.  Who is Snip?  Why is he hiding upstairs in the unused rooms!  What happens when Malcolm meets Snip?

This book won the William Allen White Award for children’s literature in Kansas.  Kids vote for the winners!  My book club heartily agreed.  This book is fantastic!

Fish in a Tree by Lynda Mullaly Hunt

No matter how many times I have prayed and worked and hoped, reading for me is still like trying to make sense of alphabet soup that’s been dumped on a plate.  I just don’t know how other people do it.

Ally is a sixth grader who has been in seven different schools in seven years.  Her dad is in the military, and the family has to move a great deal.  Every time she moves to a new school, she is able to hide her inability to read by creating clever and disruptive distractions.  But inside, she is so lonely and afraid.  She never has a friend, in fact, she is often teased by the other kids.

When a new teacher arrives to teach her class, she finds someone who says, “I’m on your side, okay?  I want to help you.”  Ally thinks to herself, “He has no idea what he’s in for.”  It turns out to be a year of firsts for Ally, including some friends!

This book touched my heart!  It is a wonderful book for any kid who is “different”.  It is Ms. Hunt’s second book, and I liked it as much as her first one One for the Murphys.  When you read the author’s letter to her readers at the end of the book, you will understand why this book is so real!

Freaky Fast Frankie Joe by Lutricia Clifton

“Hello there, Frankie Joe,” the man says getting out of a Chevy van with Illinois license plates.  “I’m your dad.”

So begins this story about a 12-year-old boy from Laredo, Texas being sent to live with a father he’s never met as well as a stepmother and four half-brothers!  Frankie’s mother is being sent to jail, but he would rather stay with the friends he’s made in the Lone Star Trailer Park.

However, Frankie Joe soon finds himself in the farming country of Illinois.  He is behind in school due to his frequent absences in Texas.  (His mother excused him frequently!)  He has no friends and his new half-brothers seem to resent him.  It’s a tough situation for a kid to handle.

He copes with his adjustment by planning to run away on his old bicycle—a trip of 1,400 miles!  He makes money by starting a delivery service for some of the people he meets.  These friendships help him adjust, but he continues to secretly plan his “escape”!

This book is a heart warming story of family and community support!  Boys and girls would enjoy this book!

The Penderwicks by Jeanne Birdsall

There had been bad moments at Arundel and there were more to come, but the total badness of this moment lived in the girls’ memories for a long time.  They and Jeffrey untangled themselves and struggled to their feet feeling like they were about to face a firing squad, one that had every right to shoot them.  For they were completely in the wrong, and whatever anger and punishment the firing squad—that is, Mrs. TIfton—wanted to mete out, they deserved it.

The summer adventures of “four sisters, two rabbits, and a very interesting boy” make for a delightful story!  The Penderwick girls and their absent-minded professor father can’t go to their usual vacation spot at Cape Cod.  At the last minute, a friend tells them about  a house to rent in the Berkshire Mountains.

Arundel is owned by the snooty Mrs. Tifton.  Her house is truly a mansion, and the gardens are beautiful!  The cottage the Penderwicks rent is perfect for them with enough rooms and a large yard for Hound, their dog.  The girls are excited to meet Jeffrey, Mrs. Tipton’s son.  They all become good friends, and the fun begins!

No matter how hard they try, Rosalind, Skye, Jane and even four-year-old Batty keep doing things that make Mrs. Tifton so angry!  She doesn’t think they are a good influence on Jeffrey.  When Dexter, Mrs. Tifton’s boyfriend arrives, it gets even more complicated!

This is a great book to read aloud!  The cover probably won’t get a kid’s attention, but when they get involved in the story—they will laugh out loud!  And they will want to read the other books in the series: The Penderwicks on Gardam Street, The Penderwicks at Point Mouette, and the brand new book—The Penderwicks in Spring.

A Week in the Woods by Andrew Clements

It was something that was going to have an impact on the year’s Week in the Woods, but it wasn’t on Mr. Maxwell’s long checklist.  There was no way for him to be prepared, not for this.  Mr. Maxwell had no idea what kind of trouble was coming his way.  But it was.  Trouble was definitely headed north.

This paragraph at the end of chapter one is foreshadowing an exciting story!

Mark Chelmsley wasn’t happy about moving from New York to New Hampshire.  His wealthy parents wouldn’t even be with him when he arrived at the new house.  They were at a stockholder’s meeting in San Francisco.  So, Mark is left with Leon and Anya, the handyman and housekeeper for the move.

When he begins attending Hardy Elementary School, he meets Mr. Maxwell, the fifth grade science teacher.  They don’t exactly “hit it off”!  Mark is very intelligent and is actually ahead of the kids in the new school.  He’s also pretty quiet, and when Mr. Maxwell finds out that the Chelmsley family has purchased over 400 acres outside of town, the teacher’s prejudices against rich, environmentally insensitive people becomes a real problem.

The biggest event in the 5th Grade year is the annual Week in the Woods.  All of the kids and their teachers go to Gray’s Notch State Park in the New Hampshire White Mountains for a week of nature studies and environmental science.  Mr. Maxwell carefully plans the trip, and his rules for the week allow zero tolerance.  Unfortunately Mark’s new friend brought a knife along, and when Mr. Maxwell sees the knife,  in Mark’s hand, he immediately assumes the worst and tells Mark that he will be taken home right away.  But instead of going to Mr. Maxwell’s truck for the trip back home, Mark says to himself, “If Mr. Maxwell wants to get rid of me so bad, then he’s gonna have to find me first!”  And he heads, alone, into the woods!

This book is enjoyed by boys and girls alike!  Andrew Clements is an author who knows kids!  His years as a public school teacher make his books “Kid Favorites”!