We are all very familiar with the atrocities engineered by Adolph Hitler, but less is heard about the atrocities that occurred at the direction of Joseph Stalin. Twenty million people were murdered under his leadership. In the book Between the Shades of Gray, Ruta Sepetys gives a very compelling account of the Soviet invasion of the country of Lithuania in 1941. Lists of people who were considered enemies of the state were compliled, and these people were removed from their homes and workplaces. These people were often professors, teachers, writers, artists, and librarians. The men were sent to prison and the women and children to forced labor camps--some of which were located in Siberia and the Arctic Circle. These individuals were separated from family members and forced to live under extremely harsh conditions with none of the comforts of home. They were not given food or medical attention. The women and children were shoved into railroad cars and sent away without ever being told where they were going.
The main character in this book is named Lina. She, her mother, and her younger brother are removed by force from their home and sent to Siberia. In Siberia, which is harsh enough to begin with, they have to scrounge for anything to eat. Even one potato becomes a luxury for the prisoners. Beets become a treat. The prisoners are forced to dig with shovels which have no handles, and they sleep on the freezing cold floor of a shack.
Eric is thirteen. His family has moved to Long Island. They are in a new place and he is in a new school, but all this happens without his Dad. His Dad did not move with them. He is elsewhere and suffering from depression. In Bystander by James Preller, the reader sympathizes with Eric as he makes all these new adjustments in his new life. He misses his dad, and his mom is very busy trying to create a typical life for her children.
Eric is the new kid in town and in school. He meets a group of middle schoolers while on the basketball court one day. As the dynamics of the group reveal themselves, Eric is quick to realize that Griffin Connelly (the leader of the pack) is not such a nice guy. In fact, he is a bully. One of the main targets for his mean antics is David Hallenback. David is under the mistaken assumption that he is part of the group and a friend of Griffin's. That is not the case.
Raphael is fourteen years old and living in an unnamed, third-world country in Andy Mulligan's book, Trash. He and his friend Gardo spend most of their days picking through the huge trash pile looking for everyday items and food. Raphael and Gardo know that when the trash is dumped from the wealthy part of town they will have a heyday. Most of the children in Raphael's village drop out of school to spend their day sifting through the trash to help support their families. Families see school as a waste of time when their children could be helping out in a more productive manner with the trash picking.
In the book Rot & Ruin, Jonathan Maberry has created a post apocalyptic zombie infested world. Benny Imura and his brother Tom live in a safe zone that is separated from the zombies by a fence. They are constantly under threat of attack by the zombies. Benny is fifteen and it is time for him to find an occupation. After several failed attempts at employment he decides to learn his brother's trade which is bounty hunter. Benny eventually learns that his brother is not a typical bounty hunter. He does search for zombies but he is hired by family members with a special request. Benny and Tom head out together beyond the safety of the fence.
Benny never knew his parents. The night of the zombie apocalypse, Benny's father is infected and becomes a zombie. His mother who has been injured, hands the baby Benny off to his older brother Tom and tells him to run. That is the last that they see of their parents. Benny has believed for years that his brother is a coward. That happened fourteen years ago. Tom has been raising Benny ever since but their relationship is very strained. As they work and travel together Benny learns more about his brother and the reality of that night.
The results are in and the 7th and 8th graders at Rodney Thompson Middle School have spoken. Here are their top choices from their Cafe Book program this year.
Bruiser by Neal Shusterman
Inexplicable events start to occur when sixteen-year-old twins Tennyson and Brontë befriend a troubled and misunderstood outcast, aptly nicknamed Bruiser, and his little brother, Cody.
Hex Hall by Rachel Hawkins
Sophie has just been exiled to Hex Hall, a school for rebellious teens…of the supernatural sort. Witches like herself, werewolves, and even a vampire or two are her new classmates, along with a host of equally unusual teachers. As mysterious and murderous events unfold, Sophie learns about her past and a secret society that dooms them all.
Candor by Pam Bachorz
For a fee, "model teen" Oscar Banks has been secretly--and selectively-- sabotaging the subliminal messages that program the behavior of the residents of Candor, Florida, until his attraction to a rebellious new girl threatens to expose his subterfuge.
Cupcake Queen by Heather Hepler
Penny moves to Hogs Hollow from New York City with her Mom. Penny's Mom runs a cupcake store and Penny has to help out. She also had to leave her friends. In addition to that, her Dad did not move with them. But there is Marcus, the boy she sees running on the beach every night.
Ella Fitzgerald developed a love for music and singing while she was a young girl growing up in New York. She and her mother Tempie used to dance around their apartment while Ella's younger sister Frances repeatedly put the needle back to the beginning of the record so that they could dance and sing the day away. They had such a grand time that they forgot all about the washing and the ironing. The book Skit Skat Raggedy Cat Ella Fitzgerald by Roxanne Orgill and illustrated by Sean Qualls introduces us to the young Ella. At thirteen, Ella and her friend Charlie were singing and dancing on Morgan Street outside the apartment building. It was 1930 in Yonkers New York and people did not have much money. But some folks were able to spare some change for Ella and Charlie. They occasionally had a nickel or two tossed at them.
Charlie and Ella put their nickels together and they were able to take the Number 1 trolley to the end of the line. From there they climbed aboard the subway train to 125th Street. They were in Harlem. Ella watched the dancers at the Savoy Ballroom on Lenox Avenue. When Ella and Charlie danced outside the theatre, people tossed them their loose change. They were making more money than the shoeshine boys. Ella knew that she was going to be famous and she told everyone so.
Carmen Navarro works at the local Quikmart. She is bored with her job. Ryan Sweeney goes to the Valley Forge Military Academy, where there are no girls. In The Fortune of Carmen Navarro by Jen Bryant, their two worlds collide. One day Carmen is working at the checkout counter, and Ryan comes into the store on a one-day pass. He sees her jet-black hair and snake tattoo and falls for her immediately. Carmen sees Ryan as a cute boy with whom she'd like to spend some time. She invites him to come and listen to her band. That is the beginning of an intense relationship for Ryan.
Ryan Sweeney comes from a military family. His family decided for him that he would be going to Valley Forge Military Academy. He wants to please his family and has never questioned their authority. He has been a model student and a rule follower - that is, until he meets Carmen. He starts sneaking off campus to see her and lying to his classmates about where he is going. His grades start to slip. Ryan has never met anyone like Carmen, and he has fallen hopelessly in love with her.
Imagine receiving an invitation to a soiree at the home of Gertrude Stein--number 27 Rue de Fleurus in Paris. If you read Paris in the Spring with Picasso, by Joan Yolleck, you will feel as if you have. This is an imaginary tale written by the author after a trip to the library where she passed the time reading about Stein. She created a story about famous artists and authors as they prepare for an evening's festivities. The young reader is introduced to such characters as Pablo Picasso and Alice B. Toklas.
Fourteen-year-old Zach Harriman lives in New York City with his mother and father. He has been living the life of a typical teen until his father is killed under mysterious circumstances. In Mike Lupica's book Hero, Zach decides that following the devastating loss of his father, he wants to get to the bottom of the story. He knows that his father was powerful and had the ear of the President of the United States. He knows that his father was very skilled in his job of "getting things done." Zach suspects that his father's death was no accident but a premeditated murder by an organization known as the "bads."
Zach's mother decides to throw herself into the presidential campaign for the candidate that Zach's father supported. Though Zach supports his mother's political efforts, he decides to turn his energies towards the investigation of his father's death. He starts asking questions. He also begins to notice that he is being followed. While walking though Central Park he is approached by a mysterious stranger who has information for him. When Zach tells his beloved Uncle John about this man, he warns him to stay away from the stranger. Who should Zach believe?
Sam Wilson is 14 years old, lives in New York City, and is a computer genius. It is not unusual for Sam and his friends to hack into computer systems and fool around. In fact, computer gaming and use has reached a whole new level in Brain Jack, by Brian Falkner. In Sam's world, being addicted to computer gaming has moved from the basement to gaming lounges. There are individuals who spend their entire days hooked to gaming systems and do nothing else. This book begs the question ...is this a possible future?
Sam likes to hack into systems for fun and to see if he can shut them down and then get out without his identity being detected. One day he decides to disrupt the structure of one of the country's largest telecommunications systems. He is able to move through the system undetected for a while using his computer hacking skills. However, unusual activity is noted by the web security team working for the large company. Sam realizes that he has been spotted and decides to get out quickly. There is a flurry of activity that follows as Sam scrambles to finish the job and remove any evidence that could link this security breach back to him.