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Rebecca’s life is turned upside down when her mother suddenly takes Rebecca and her little brother from their Baltimore home to their grandmother’s home in Atlanta. Expecting a quick trip, Rebecca is shocked to learn that they have left her father behind, and will be staying in Atlanta. New school, new kids, new house, new city. Rebecca is furious with her mother, and homesick for her dad and Baltimore.

When Rebecca discovers a magical bread box in her grandma’s attic, she thinks that she has found an easy solution to her problems. But even though her wishes are being granted, her problems seem to multiply. Somehow, Rebecca must figure out a way to make everything right again. This would be an excellent book to read in conjunction with Eight Keys. Both books have similar themes of grief, bullying, friendship and family, and it would be interesting to compare and contrast how the characters deal with their problems. Another excellent read for 5th-8th grade girls.

Eight Keys by Suzanne LaFleur

06th February 2012

I loved LaFleur’s debut novel, Love, Aubrey and her second novel, Eight Keys was just as good. Elise has lived with her aunt and uncle ever since her father died when she was 3. She loves her aunt and uncle, and spends much of her time playing with her best friend named Franklin. But now that Elise is turning 12 and entering middle school, her safe, comfortable life seems to be changing. Suddenly, “playing” is no longer the cool thing to do, a 6th grade bully is picking on her, homework is piling up, and Elise begins to take out her frustration on the one friend who loves her as she is, Franklin. One day, Elise discovers a key in the barn with her name on it. Looking for answers, she takes the key and unlocks a door that gives her back the past, while at the same time, helping her to begin moving forward.

This is an excellent book for 5th-7th grade girls. Elise’s story is honest and real. LaFleur deals with the realities of friendship and middle school without exaggeration. And although Elise must find her own answers, she is surrounded by loving adults as well.

When Jamie’s father leaves their family, and his aunt Saphy has an accident that leaves her needing a caretaker, Jamie and his mom move to northern Michigan to live with, and care for, his aunt. Suffering from a head injury, Aunt Saphy can’t remember anything day to day. Jamie has a dark secret that he’d love to forget, but he can’t. With the help of a new friend, Audrey, Jamie sets out to help his aunt, but ends up finding answers of his own.

This book was phenomenal. Weeks has woven together Jamie’s and his aunt Saphy’s stories in a way that reminds me of Gary Schmidt’s books.While not as rich in historical detail as Schmidt, Weeks develops her characters and reveals the plot at just the right pace. I also love how she strikes the perfect balance of Jamie being alone with his secret, without making all of the adults in his life completely incompetent. Highly recommended for readers of all ages.

Schmidt has done it again. He wrote a book about a seventh grade bully that I, a 30-something mother of 2, could not put down. Somehow, Schmidt managed to tie the Vietnam War, an alcoholic father, the Apollo space missions, Audubon’s Birds of America, a playwright, a grocery store and the library into an amazing story of friendship, overcoming obstacles, and standing up for yourself. If you (and your kids) need to pick just one book to read this summer, choose Okay For Now.

Looking for a fresh start, Travis and his father moved to a tiny town in Newfoundland.  Travis’ father immediately settles into his role as the town doctor, but Travis, still grieving over the loss of his mother, struggles to find his place.  When a bully marks Travis as his target on Travis’ first day of school, Travis knows that his new town will never be home.  But then Travis discovers a group of wild cats, who will certainly freeze to death during the fierce Canadian winter…unless Travis can figure out a way to help them.

Travis’ battles–to make friends, save the cats, defeat the bully, conquer his grief and find a home–drew me in immediately.  Readers of all ages will relate to this book, but middle school boys in particular will devour MacLean’s first book.  AND, I just discovered that MacLean wrote a follow-up book about one of the female characters, Prinny Murphy.  How cool would it be for the girls in a 6th grade class to read Prinny’s story and the boys to read Travis’ story?  Or better yet, the girls can read from the boys point-of-view, and the boys can read from the girls’.

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