Dragonsong by Anne McCaffrey

dragonsongThere are at least twenty novels set in McCaffrey’s fantasy world of Pern. Dragonsong is the fourth book in the series, but it’s the first book in the Harper Hall trilogy (which is a series within a series), so you can read it even if you are new to McCaffrey and the world of Pern (as I was).

Everyone in Pern lives in underground villages or “holds” because it’s too dangerous to live outside. Every so often, “Thread,” a flesh-eating spore, rains down for hours from a nearby planet. To protect themselves, the people of Pern depend on dragons, who can destroy Thread mid-air with their fire, and dragonriders, the men who care for and control the dragons.

Meanwhile, Menolly, a 14-year old resident of the Half-Circle Seahold, is miserable. Her father, a stern fisherman, has forbidden her from writing songs, partly because she is a girl, and partly because only official “Harpers” are allowed to compose music. In despair, Menolly runs off, and, as luck would have it, finds herself stuck outside during a Thread storm.

Desperately, she finds shelter in a cave, where she also discovers a nest of hatching dragon lizards — flying, miniature dragons which are so rare that most people don’t even believe in them. Because Menolly is the first person to feed the nine lizards, they grow dependent on her. Now, she must find a way to survive long-term on the surface of Pern and to nurture her new astonishing family of lizards.

Dragonsong was a huge treat for me because I was able to forget the real world and live in Pern for a while. It’s a perfect novel for anyone who likes imaginary worlds full of bizarre dangers over which only dragons can prevail.

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Where I Want to Be by Adele Griffin

Where I Want to BeLily and Jane have always been very different, even though they’re sisters and only one year apart. While Lily cares about things like school, friends, sports, and boys, Jane is only interested in games of magic and make-believe, always claiming to hear voices that nobody else can hear and see people that nobody else can see. Lily dismisses her sister’s ridiculous claims, but when Jane dies and Lily begins to sense her sister’s continuing presence around the house, Lily begins to rethink her ideas about spirituality, the imagination, and death.

A Sea So Far by Jean Thesman

A Sea So FarOn April 18, 1906, San Francisco was thrown into crisis by a powerful earthquake. Buildings fell, fires burned, riots broke out, and at least 3000 people died. Kate, a poor, strong-willed orphan, and Jolie, a spoiled semi-invalid, are both left temporarily homeless amid this chaos. Kate longs to escape San Francisco to her mother’s homeland of Ireland, while Jolie becomes determined to return to her life as it was before the quake. When the two girls meet, they do not like each other. But as their friendship builds, both learn that returning to the past is not as easy as they would hope.

The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak

Book ThiefThis historical novel, about a poor neighborhood in Molching, Germany during World War II, is destined to become a classic. Narrated by death (who it turns out, is a pretty nice guy), the book follows the young life of Liesel Meminger as Hitler gains power and everyone else loses it – especially, of course, the Jews of Europe. Liesel and her family risk everything by hiding a young Jewish man in their basement; but this heart-stopping thread is only one in a tapestry of war, thievery, love, determination, and the power of words. I read this one twice in print last year and then listened to it on CD over spring break. It’s hard to get enough of The Book Thief.

The Triple Chocolate Brownie Genius by Deborah Sherman

triple chocolateMichael is an underachiever and proud of it. He may be lazy, but he’s VERY popular. In fact, Michael was recently voted student council president of the J.R. Wilcott Middle School. Then, one day, the unthinkable happens: Michael’s father, a computer programmer, accidentally leaves a computer chip on the kitchen counter, Michael’s mother accidentally stirs the chip into her triple-chocolate brownie batter, and Michael accidentally eats it! As luck would have it, the computer chip was loaded with education information, all of which Michael absorbs. Suddenly, he becomes his own worst nightmare: a know-it-all! In class, his hand flies up to answer every question. He receives A+ after A+ on all his assignments. But what about his image as the lazy cool kid? What about all his friends? How can Michael save his reputation now that he’s become a genius?

Freak by Marcella Pixley

freakMarilyn is not your typical seventh-grader. She writes poetry with ketchup, for instance, and reads the dictionary for fun. At school, she has almost no friends. People taunt her in the hallways, in the cafeteria, and on the school bus. They make fun of her appearance, of her clothes, and of her crush on Artie, a super-cute high school senior who is living with Marilyn’s family for the school year. Every morning, Marilyn wakes up with a sense of dread, wondering how she can get through another day of being the school “freak.” Is there any way she can turn things around, or is she doomed to social misery forever?