Arcade and the Triple T Token by Rashad Jennings is the first book in a junveile fiction series probably best for 4-6th graders.
Eleven-year-old Arcade Livingston has some typical kid problems–he’s moved to a new city and is the new kid at school, some bullies have him in their sights and having to take the subway everywhere makes it difficult to check out all the library books he wants. But he also has one very unusual problem… a mysterious token that seems to be transporting him on some pretty crazy adventures.
Together with his older sister, Zoe, Arcade will learn to navigate his new home, while trying to uncover the secrets of this magical token that appeared out of no where.
This was a really fun read and quick too! I found the characters super relatable, each in their own way, and Arcade is someone you can definitely see being a friend. There’s almost this idea of stepping into another person’s shoes that the author is playing with, through the lens of “what do I want to be when I grow up,” a question that a lot of middle grade kids are just starting to explore. I sort of loved that each of Arcade’s adventures were tied in to one of his friends interests and desires.
Arcade is sort of this “go to guy,” the guy who knows all the answers, even if he has no idea what he wants to be himself. He’s smart in an observant way and I liked how he sees the world around him.
There’s also a secondary lesson going on in the background with this one–this idea of why should we only think inside the box, when there are other ways of looking at the world. It’s a more obscure theme, but it’s there.
The fifth book is about to come out in this series, so I think this would be a great one for both boys and girls in 4-6th grade. There’s a lot to discuss and a lot that can be explored about ones own aspirations. This book gets a high 4.5 stars from me.
That’s all for now!
Masterminds by Gordon Korman is the first book in a juvenile fiction series probably good for 4-7th graders.
Eli Frieden has never even stepped outside of his hometown Serenity, New Mexico… but when you live in a town that is perfect in every way, why would you want to. At least that is what he’s been raised to believe, until one day he bikes to the edge of town and everything changes.
Now Eli is questioning everything that make Serenity what it is, even his own father might be in on it… but in on what? Together he and his friends work together to uncover what secrets a town without secrets is really hiding. And what they found out, will shift the way they think about their world forever.
Once the truth is out, will anything ever be the same?
This is actually an older title and I think the entire series may actually be out, which will be a plus to my book club crew because I tend to pick titles that they have to wait for the sequels for.
I sort of love this idea of these kids finding out that they are clones of criminal masterminds and now they are wondering if they are good, bad or something in between. And it was so much fun seeing the little hints of inherited talent that may or may not have come from their DNA.
There’s also a lot of great discussion questions that can be pulled out of this book, while it still being entertaining to the kids. Questions about living in a “perfect” town, living without secrets, value vs love, censorship and more. The discussion we can have over nature vs nurture is going to be really interesting.
Overall, this was a fun book with a lot of good potential for a book club. I’d probably recommend this one for 5-6th graders. This one gets 4.5 stars from me.
That’s all for now!
Eddie Red Undercover: Mystery on Museum Mile by Marcia Wells is a 4-6th grade juvenile fiction novel about a smart kid who teams up with the police to catch art thieves.
Sixth grader Edmund, aka Eddie Red, has a photographic memory and some really great art skills, which makes him the perfect tool for the NYPD to use to catch a renowned group of art thieves called the Picasso Gang. But not everyone is as thrilled as Eddie is to be working with the police.
As Eddie continues to work the case, he and his genius best friend dig themselves in deeper and may find themselves in a whole lot of trouble.
This was a fun, quick read that will be an easy one for my 4-6th grade book club. It is perfect for mystery and action readers alike. It is also the first book in a series, which parents are always looking for when trying to get their kids to read more.
One of the things I love about this book is that Eddie doesn’t get all full of himself once he starts working with the police. He openly admits that he is scared and he has the same flaws any kid would have–he’s short, skinny, sometimes awkward, has to deal with bullies and school work, and a budding interest in girls that makes his hands sweat and his stomach knot. I think this is great for a middle grade read. Relatable characters that are still extraordinary are some of my favorites.
I also think the artwork inserted here and there throughout the book adds a nice touch. And for the budding artists out there, there is a short face drawing tutorial at the end.
Overall, this was a good read for 4-6th graders and though not super deep, should be a decent one for discussion. This one gets 4 stars from me.
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The Genius Files: Mission Unstoppable by Dan Gutman is a 4-5 grade juvenile fiction novel.
Twelve-year-old Coke and Pepsi are getting read to go on a cross country road-trip with their “clueless” parents, when they find out that they are being targeted by a mystery group that is out to kill them. Good thing they are hitting the road for awhile. Or is it?
Coke and Pepsi seem to have been roped into a secret government organization called The Genius Files, where it is up to genius kids to save the world. With no real choice in the matter, the twins go about their vacation with one eye open but can they keep the secret from their parents and more importantly, will they make it home alive?
Full of geography and little-known tourist destinations around the county, The Genius Files is a quick, action packed read.
And with that summary, I hate to say, I wasn’t wowed by this book. It could be because of the many “questionable” moral decisions the twins make–but they didn’t feel even remotely like realistic characters to me. And I get that this is fiction and they really aren’t meant to be “normal” but I didn’t find them relatable at all.
I did enjoy the many out of the way, wacky destinations that Gutman includes in the novel and it’s sort of neat that you can follow along via Google Maps if you want to. I could totally see an interesting book report coming out of this.
The ciphers were fun; I am a sucker for a good cipher. I could totally see making one up for my book club to uncover. You could even do a STEM project where each cipher leads to a different spot on a map, until you discover your final location.
Overall, this was an entertaining read and I think will be popular with fans of Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Captain Underpants and Dog Man. But for me, it only gets three stars.
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Wildfire by Rodman Philbrick is a fast paced juvenile fiction book, good for a 4-6th grade reader.
As flames race toward Sam’s summer camp in northern Maine, evacuation buses are filling and everyone is racing to get out. Worried that his mom won’t be able to reach him without his phone, Sam hurries back to his cabin where he is suddenly cut off by flames. All Sam can do is run for his life–run or die.
Sam only knows he has to keep moving, so when he runs into a girl from a nearby camp, the join forces and run, keeping one step ahead of the fire. But where are they going? And more importantly does anyone know they are alive?
Oh man, this book is like a speeding train from the moment you open the cover. Seriously, I was almost put off by just how quickly we get into the action. Worried about hooking your young reader… well don’t be. This one never slows down; it starts fast and it ends fast.
One of the things I liked most about this book was that Sam and Delphy both put on brave faces but only because adrenaline forces them to do so. They are scared out of their minds and it shows, but playing off each other and the situation makes them braver.
My only hesitation to recommending this one to everyone is that because of the subject matter and because of how fast paced it is, there is almost this anxiety the reader gets as they read and I’d be afraid our more sensitive readers could get scared.
For the curious reader, there is an afterword about forest fires and safety tips on one of America’s deadliest natural disasters.
This one gets 4 stars from me and would make a great companion to a lesson plan on forest fires or natural disasters.
That’s all for now!