Keep the Lights on When You Read: Skeleton Creek by Patrick Carman

What an absolutely brilliant concept. These are unique books that teens and adults alike can enjoy reading and experiencing. In this internet age, when kids are often more into technology than holding a book in their hands, author Patrick Carman has produced an interactive book series that combines both reading and technology, giving teens exactly what they’ve been craving!

Skeleton Creek, the first in the series,  is told from best friends Ryan and Sarah’s dual perspectives, through Ryan’s journal and Sarah’s uploaded videos. Strange and scary things are happening in their town of Skeleton Creek, and when the pair vow to get to the bottom of it. They determined not to let a terrible accident or the fact that their parents have forbidden them to communicate stop them. While Ryan lies in bed, recovering from a broken leg, he tries to find out everything he can about the Skeleton Creek mystery from his dad, recording everything in his journal.  In the meantime, Sarah takes her video camera everywhere and uploads the clips for Ryan to see, emailing him passwords to ensure he is the only one able to connect to the video.

Working together, though very much apart, Ryan and Sarah slowly begin to uncover some pretty creepy information and end up way more involved than either ever planned. Their lives are put into danger several times and they learn that Ryan’s dad may be in the midst of the sinister info they are collecting.

And that’s just the first book! Let me tell you, the endings of each books leave you with one heck of a cliffhanger. Darn you, Patrick Carman!

I  had to read them each in one sitting–they’re that suspenseful! The videos are ultra-creepy (I’d suggest lights on for viewing). Perfect for a techno-savvy teen!

Skeleton Creek series by Patrick Carman; $14.99; Scholastic; Ages 12+

Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer [Summer’s pick]

What would you do if you discovered a secret colony of fairies living in Earth’s core? Well, 12-year-old Artemis Fowl decides to exploit the fairies for their gold! A genius and criminal mastermind, Artemis kidnaps a fairy and demands a ransom of gold. Artemis’ plan seems airtight, but he doesn’t plan on his victim being a feisty, female LEPreacon officer named Holly Short. Will Artemis’ plan succeed? Will young Artemis grow a conscience and abandon his criminal plans? Artemis and Holly are joined by a whole host of fun and outrageous characters from Artemis’ bodyguard, Butler, to fairy police chief named Commander Root.

Eoin Colfer tells this magical tale with a wit and intelligence everyone will enjoy. The characters develop throughout the series, and each book contains thrilling adventures and witty comebacks that will have readers gasping and laughing out loud.

Artemis Fowl published by Miramax Books       visit Eoin Colfer’s website: Ages 9-90

Horrid Henry is anything but a horrid read!

hhstinkbombFrancesca Simon, the only American author (so far) to win the Galaxy British Book Awards Children’s Book of the Year (past winners include JK Rowling, Philip Pullman, and Eoin Colfer) has created a fabulous chapter book series for boys and girls ages 6 to 10.  Each Horrid Henry book contains four easy-to-read stories featuring naughty Horrid Henry and his younger brother, Perfect Peter. These lovable, laughable – and, yes, wholesome – characters will delight even the most reluctant readers.

hhtimemachineI’ve read four of the books – 16 stories, in all – and they’re consistently humorous and fun to read. Best yet, you don’t have to read the books in any particular order. The illustrations by Tony Ross are great, too!

All our Horrid Henry books are paperback ($4.99 each, Sourcebooks)

hhtoothfairy Oh, and they’re great read-aloud books for the entire family!

Ellen’s Picks of the Day 3/31/09

youngsamurai Readers ages 10 to 15 who like adventure, personal challenges, and a hint of mystery should get their hands on Young Samurai: The Way of the Warrior, by Chris Bradford. Although the cover of the book looks somewhat fearsome, the story has characters with whom you can readily identify – boys and girls who care strongly about bravery, honor and loyalty. For more about the book, see my review in the Spring ’09 edition of Kids’ Next, Inspired Recommendations for Kids from Indie Booksellers – which I’m proud to say also contains reviews by Hooray For Books! co-owner Trish Brown and senior staffer Megan Graves.

eon For girls ages 12 and older who simply can’t get enough adventure, Eon: Dragoneye Reborn, by Alison Goodman, is a must-read. Eon has been undergoing grueling training in hopes of being selected as an apprentice to one of the 12 energy dragons that keep the world from chaos. What few people know, however, is that Eon is actually a teenage girl – and no females are allowed to practice dragon magic. In fact, if her secret is revealed, it means certain death.

Young Samurai: The Way of the Warrior by Chris Bradford, Hyperion Books for Children, $16.99

Eon: Dragoneye Reborn by Alison Goodman, Viking, $19.99

Jazminne’s Picks of the Day 02/24/09

Are you tired of being picked on?  Do you wish that you could be the strongest, prettiest, or most popular kid in school?  Then you will love Bruce Coville’s Magic Shop Books.  These books are full of humor, fantasy, and adventure, and they don’t have to be read in any particular order.  For ages 8 and up!

jeremyJeremy Thatcher, Dragon Hatcher Jeremy Thatcher knows a thing  or two about raising animals.  But after he leaves Mr. Elives’ magic shop with a strange marbled egg, it soon becomes clear that this is one pet he wasn’t prepared for! How is he supposed to keep a flame-breathing dragon with razor-sharp teeth and an out of control appetite in his bedroom?  But if the playful baby dragon is ever to grow up to become a magnificent beast of myth and legend, it needs Jeremy.  And though he doesn’t know it yet, Jeremy needs a dragon.

jenniferJennifer Murdley’s Toad Jennifer Murdley had always wanted to be pretty.  That’s why she’s so surprised to leave Mr. Elives’ magic shop with a particularly ugly toad.  As her worst enemy says, “A toad for a toad.”  But this toad can talk.  And what it has to say sets Jennifer off on a journey that leads her into the company of the Immortal Vermin and straight to the Beauty Parlor of Doom…where she comes face-to-face with her deepest fears and dreams.  Jennifer would give anything to be beautiful.  But sometimes anything is too high a price to pay.

monsterThe Monster’s Ring If ever a kid needed to release his inner monster, it’s Russell Crannaker.  He’s bullied at school and he’s bullied at home, and when he stumbles into Mr. Elives’ magic shop, he’s even bullied into buying something he didn’t know he needed.  His purchase–a strange green ring– promises a monstrous magic that will make Russell bully-proof for the rest of his life. The directions for the ring are very simple: Twist it once, you’re horned and haired; Twist it twice and fangs are bared; Twist it Thrice? No one has Dared! Russell has been feeling daring lately…

Other Magic Shop Books: The Skull of Truth ;   Juliet Dove, Queen of Love. Harcourt Brace/Houghton Mifflin Books

Ellen’s Picks of the Day 2/23/09

cityofthedeadReaders ages 9 to 13 (and older) who like spooky (but not nightmare-inducing) stories will want to get their hands on The Haunting of Derek Stone, a new series by Tony Abbott (whom many of you know as the author of The Secrets of Droon.)

The underlying premise of this series, as explained by 14-year-old Derek Stone, is that, “at the very moment of death, when a soul flees its dying body, another soul – one that’s been dead a long time – can take its place and reanimate the body.”  He knows this as a fact, because, in the first book, City of the Dead, the soul of a young prison guard named Virgil Black, who was killed in a train crash in 1938, takes over the body of Derek’s brother, Ronny, who similarly was killed in a train crash.

This so-called “translation” can occur because there’s a tear in the fabric between the worlds of the living and the dead, and the dead want to take full advantage of the “rift” to bring their war between good and evil to our world.  Fortunately, Virgil/Ronny is one of the good guys, because the bad guys are after Derek (who, by the way, is a little overweight and can’t hear well out of his left ear.)

bayoudogs1In the 2nd book, Bayou Dogs, which is due out in March, Derek and Virgil/Ronny learn a few things that might help them foil the comeback of the evil souls.  But this requires Derek to return to the site of his worst nightmare, Bayou Malpierre.  The suspense just gets greater and greater!

The Haunting of Derek Stone: City of the Dead by Tony Abbott $4.99 (paperback)

The Haunting of Derek Stone: Bayou Dogs by Tony Abbott $4.99 (paperback); Scholastic Press

Fantasy and Adventure readers will love The Cabinet of Wonders

images4The Cabinet of Wonders (The Kronos Chronicles: Book I) by Marie Rutkoski

From the moment I saw the cover, I knew I had to read this book.   I loved the Harry Potter series and this is a great book to read for those who love fantasy and adventure.  The main character is twelve year old Petra Kronos.  Petra’s dad, Michael,  has the magical gift of being able to move metal with his mind.  They own a shop called “The Sign of the Compass” where he sells metal trinkets and pets.  Petra’s life is happy and simple until Michael is commissioned by the Prince of Bohemia to make the world’s finest astronomical clock.  When the clock is completed, the Prince has Michael’s eyes magically removed and sends him back home.  Petra is determined to get her father’s eyes back, and against her father’s wishes, she goes to the Prince’s castle in Prague to do just that.  She makes friends that help her on her journey, like a boy whose fingers extend into invisible ghosts that pick locks and pockets.  On this voyage, Petra learns a lot about herself and just people in general.  She’s a smart girl, but very naive at the same time, which doesn’t mix too well with her tendency to make impulsive decisions.  This is a book for ages 10+ and is a great read-aloud as well.

Kronos Chronicles Book 1, Cabinet of Wonders, by Marie Rutkoski, Farrar Straus Giroux, $16.95