Fiction

Dancing Men - and Women!

I enjoy a good mystery - and when it involves a code to decipher - it just doubles the fun with two puzzles to solve in one story!

In the graphic novel mystery Sherlock Holmes and the Adventure of the Dancing Men, master detective Sherlock Holmes receives a picture of stick figures with their arms and legs positioned in different ways so it looks like they are dancing. The stick figures are appearing around the home of Mr. Cubitt who asks Sherlock Holmes if he can determine what the pictures mean. Holmes examines different samples of the drawings and believes they are a code used to communicate messages in secret. When Holmes travels to Mr. Cubitt's home to inform him of what he has learned, Holmes encounters another mystery: Mr. Cubitt has been murdered! Immediately, Holmes begins questioning the servants and looking for other clues that will reveal the identity of the murderer.
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The Saturday Big Tent Wedding Party

Saturday Big Tent Wedding PartyWedding planning, ghost vans that mysteriously disappear into the veldt, a perfect pair of heels for a wedding, what's not to like about Alexander McCall Smith's latest in the No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency series? If life has you feeling blue, this is the perfect book to lighten your mood and take you away from your problems. Botswana, is that far enough? A country where they measure wealth in cattle rather than dollars, and people still have the time to chat in a tree's shade.
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The Water Seeker

"What would you do if you knew you had a special gift - a sixth sense - that was passed down from one generation to the next? A gift that could help people in times of need, but one your father often saw as a trap. Would you use that gift?" The Water Seeker by Kimberly Willis Holt is the story of Amos Kincaid, a boy who could find water where it lay beneath the land, unseen by ordinary eyes.

After his mother dies in childbirth, Amos is raised by a succession of women who are each symbols of the American West: a missionary, a rough farm worker, a new bride, and his father's second wife, an Otoe Indian woman. Each of them contributes something unique to the boy's upbringing under the watchful presence of his mother's spirit. The boy is also shaped by the rough men of the wilderness: his father Jake, a reluctant dowser and trapper, and the Blocks, a family of boys as close as brothers to Amos. All come together in the vast wilderness of America sharing tragedy and triumph as Amos grows into manhood on a perilous journey along the Oregon Trail.

Recommended for readers in grades 5-8

The True Meaning of Smekday

I had a great time listening to The True Meaning of Smekday, the recipient of the 2011 Odyssey Award. (The Odyssey Award is presented by the American Library Association to the best audiobook produced for children and/or young adults, available in English in the U.S.) How can you not love a friendly, tongue-clacking "Boov" alien nicknamed "J.Lo" (because Boovish names are unpronounceable by humans) who becomes the unlikely companion of an intrepid 11-year old car-driving heroine named Gratutity (nickname "Tip")? Throw in a cat called "Pig," a flying car called "Slushious," and other colorful characters, along with some strange, funny, and occasionally horrifying events - well, the result is a futuristic road trip like you've never imagined.

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Moon Over Manifest


It is 1936 in the depths of the Great Depression and Abilene Tucker has been sent by her wandering father to live in the dying town of Manifest, Kansas. She spends the summer making friends and trying to discover the truth about the town, its colorful inhabitants, and her father's past. The mystery revolves around the years 1917-18 when America was fighting in World War I and a deadly outbreak of influenza swept the world. Abilene and her buddies delve into old newspapers, find hidden clues, and uncover secrets through a diviner's stories to reveal the extraordinary friendship between two young men, Ned and Jinx. Abilene is disappointed when she believes there is no trace of her father in Manifest but for the first time in her life, she begins to think of a place as home.
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Forge - Historical Thriller

If you thought this winter in Bloomington was a fierce one, you may feel it was downright balmy after reading about the winter the Revolutionary War soldiers experienced at Valley Forge in 1777-1778.

In Forge, Laurie Halse Anderson continues the compelling story she started in her award-winning novel Chains which describes the involvement of African American slaves in the Revolutionary War. Chains was told from the perspective of Isabel, a slave who spies for the rebels during the start of the war. She meets Curzon, a slave whose owner required him to enlist as a soldier and fight in the war in his place, with the promise that Curzon would become free when the enlistment time expired.
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Astrid & Veronika

Astrid and VeronikaThis lovely book describes a friendship between a septuagenarian and a woman of 30. Veronika, the younger woman, has spent a lifetime moving, first accompanying her father to his foreign service assignments, then on her own to Stockholm and London before impetuously following a boyfriend to Auckland, New Zealand.
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The Writing Circle

The Writing CircleThis novel examines the writing process itself especially that nerve-wracking period when an author first shares her work with other people. Nancy writes for a medical newsletter for a living; how ironic, she often thinks, that a doctor's daughter researches articles about prostate health, skin cancer, even empty nest syndrome, and then makes pronouncements about them in the voice of a medical practitioner rather than her own. Her novel is a deeply personal story, one that imagines her father's life beginning with the night he watched a couple say good-bye to their newborn daughter. Nancy has waited until after her father's death to imagine his story. And as in all fiction, the bare biographical facts are merely a springboard to the tale, not its actual foundation.
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The Mostly True Adventures of Homer P. Figg

Homer P. Figg and his older brother Harold are orphans, and their sad lives are made even more wretched by their mean guardian, Uncle Squinton. "Squint" forces Harold to be conscripted into the Union Army even though he is underage, and Homer is compelled to try to rescue his brother before he is killed in the savagery of the Civil War. Thus begin The Mostly True Adventures of Homer P. Figg. (Mostly true, because to Homer, telling the truth "don't come easy.") It's unusual to have a humorous book that takes place in a time of war, and though plenty of sad things happen, the author (Rodman Philbrick, who also wrote the famed YA novel Freak the Mighty) succeeds in keeping a lighter tone which kids and parents will appreciate. I hope you'll enjoy the folksy humor and fascinating characters as much as I did! (This book is a 2010 Newbery Honor book and is recommended for grades 5-8.)

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