Summer and Bird: Katherine Catmull

Summer and Bird awake one cold, lonely morning to discover two things. One: they are entirely alone, no  mother, no father, no pet cat, only each other.  Two: they have a secret message that they think their mother meant for them to find and follow.  But follow where?  This book takes the two girls on a journey to Down, a woodland, snowy forest that has been in winter for almost 13 years.  A sinister force is at work in this world, and will stop at nothing to take these girls and turn them into puppets.

This story has one unnerving plot twist after another!! I loved the writing style and imagery Catmull creates.  This is definitely a book for people who love fantasy/fiction and even a good mystery.  Search with Summer and Bird as they search for their lost parents, and discover what secrets lie in store.

Grade Level: 5.3

Shiloh: Phyllis Reynolds Naylor

This is one of my all time favorite books and favorite choice for summer reading!! Marty is a young boy who finds a poor,sad, neglected dog.  Marty does everything he can to take care of the dog and keep him away from his awful ex-owner Judd.  Marty knows that he cannot keep a dog long without someone noticing.  Time is running out for Marty and Shiloh.  Will Marty be able to rescue his beloved dog? Or will Judd find out and take him away forever?  Read to find out!!

This is the first book of three int the Shiloh series.  I read these for the first time many years ago and LOVED them like I do now.  Marty is such an all american boy who loves this dog! Shiloh is too lovable to resist.  If you love dogs, this book is a must-read!!

Grade level: 4.4

A Voice in the Wind:Francine Rivers

After loosing everything she's ever known, watched her family die of starvation in front of her, and seen the incredible fall of Jerusalem  Hadassah is in complete and utter despair.   To make matters inconceivably worse, Hadassah is then taken prisoner and sold as as a jewish slave to the invading Romans.  She is purchased by a family who chooses to make her the personal servant of their youngest daughter.  Little does the family know that the slave they have just purchased is actually one of the many Christians, a new religion that even the mention of the name can land you in prison or killed.  Hadassah's faith in this novel is such an inspiration.  She has faults , and doubts from time to time, but she never takes her eyes of Jesus.  Even into the Lions' den (literally) she stands firm for her faith.  She clings to God, even though self-indulgent Rome is ever calling, and her very life hangs in the balance.

I would recommend this book for high-school age and older.  It reads decently for younger grades, but I would recommend it for an older crowd.  This is due to the severe violent nature represented in many scenes.  While it is not written in a gruesome way, I think this book is meant for older students.  Also, there is some mention of pagan rituals and a few other non-child friendly, darker themes.  After all, this book is set in Ancient Rome.  Pagan worship and other idolatry is running rampant during this era.  However, I still thoroughly condone this book!! It is an excellent story about a person who has steadfast faith in Jesus Christ.  She can put many of us to shame with her level of devotion.  

Grade level: 5.5
Maturity level: Young Adult/Adult

Eragon: Christopher Paolini

Eragon is out in the forest one day and discovers a shiny, blue stone.  Happy with such an unusual discovery, this poor farmer carries his treasure home.  Little did he know that this was no mere stone, but a dragons' egg!  Without knowing what his future holds, Eragon is forced into a fascinating yet dangerous journey to correct the evil that has been spreading in his beloved country.

Spoiler Alert: Be prepared to cry!!!  This novel is the first in the series, and each book takes you for a bumpy ride!! Just when you think you know a person, (or fictional characrter) they go and turn on you!! (Well, not really turn on you, since you AREN'T in the story....)  This novel is so well done, and it is a credit to Paolini to write such a convincing fantasy.  I was literally on the edge of my seat reading this, several times!!

Grade level: 5.6

Emma: Jane Austen

Emma Woodhouse is the wealthy daughter of a nervous but loving man.  She has no want of anything, and therefore proceeds to become the town match-maker in the hopes of making everyone 'happy'.  Little does she realize, that the matters of the heart are a treacherous plaything.  This book is filled with quick, witty remarks, shocking turns of events, and of course, true love.  Has Emma really met her match? Or is it too late? READ TO FIND OUT!!

This novel is one of my all time favorites!! This book is simply a MUST read for high school age/level students, and especially for girls.  As you read, you explore the inner-workings of a clever mind who learns that being prideful and flaunting her cleverness can get cause serious problems for her and those close to her.  

Grade Level: 9.3

Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters: Jane Austen with an adaptation by Ben Winters

In this twist of Austen's classic, the Dashwood sisters are send to a mysterious island where they are left at the mercy of stormy seasons, violent octopi battles, and frightening sea monsters of a lively variety.  In an interesting twist, Colonel Brandon is now a tentacle-covered yet kind individual with eyes only for sweet yet misguided Marianne.  The sisters must fight against their own short-comings, biases, and aversion to those who might be squid-like.  

I must admit, at first I was a little skeptical of any variation to my beloved Austen classics.  However, I simply cannot express fully how much I enjoyed this book! Making Brandon a sea-creature has significant affect on the story, and teaches the reader to love based on personality, kindness and courage; not get caught up in appearance. 

Grade Level:8.7

On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness:Andrew Peterson

Long, long ago, when thwaps and toothy cows roamed free, there lived the Igiby family.  Janner, Tink, and Leeli seem like ordinary children living ordinary lives. They live in peace, unless you take into account of the Black Carriage that comes every night to take children way from their homes.   UThey live free of danger, unless you take note of the scaly, slimy, evil, lizard-like Fangs of Dang, threatening their peaceful hometown.  The Igiby family must defend themselves against these frightening creatures in a search to discover what the 'Jewels of Aniera' are, and what makes them so important to protect.

This book is riddled with amazing, strong characters and  loaded with major Christian motifs.  The 7th grade class goes through the entire Wingfeather Saga as part of their Literature Curriculum, and this is the first book in that series.  I have never had a more positive class outlook on an entire book like I have had for this series!  They are simple too good to put down.  The characters in the story put us to shame when it comes to being brave, chivalrous, and fighting for what they know is right! This book is good for middle grades 6-8.

Grade Level: 6

Gregor The Overlander: Suzanne Collins

Gregor is a boy with nothing extraordinary about him.  Until one day, he falls through an air vent in search of his baby sister.  He tumbles down into a dangerous, deadly underground world known as the 'Underland'.  Here, human beings live in a delicate harmony with giant bats, spiders, rats and other unsavory creatures.  Gregor has no choice but to become a part in this story in order to save himself and his family from certain doom!

This is an excellent middle grade book for students who love the Hunger Games series.  Good for students in grades 4 through 8.

Reading Level:4.8