MAINE STUDENT BOOK AWARD
The Maine Student Book Award is designed to expand literary horizons of students in grades 4-8 by encouraging them to read, evaluate, and enjoy a selection of new books and to choose a statewide favorite by written ballot each spring.
The Harriet Beecher Stowe MSBA Celebration took place on Tuesday April 2nd this year. To qualify, students in 4th & 5th grade needed to read at least 3 books from the list below, and hand in slips with their brief reviews. Then I took their picture and attached a list of the books they’ve read. Finally, the last week of March I handed out ballots so that those students could vote in the state-wide voting. They then attended the HBS Maine Student Book Award Celebration, where they were put into teams and answered questions about the books they’ve read.
This year’s celebration was a fun time for all…we celebrated all our reading with cake, then competed to see which team could answer the most questions…
A big THANK YOU to all the students who participated, and to all the parents who supported their efforts, and the volunteers who helped make it happen!
Here is the list of titles selected for the HBS students for 2012-2013, including a variety of reading levels and genres.
Aguirre, Jorge. Giants Beware! First Second. Graphic novel. Gr. 4-6. 202p. Claudette dreams of slaying the babyfoot-eating monster that threatens her medieval village. She
sets out with her best friend, who wants to be a princess, and timid brother,
Gaston, to find and kill a giant. The plucky trio heads into the Forest of
Death, bordering the Mad River, on their way to the Giant’s Peak. A surprise
Airgood, Ellen. Prairie Evers. Nancy Paulsen Books. Realistic fiction. Gr. 4-6. 215p. Good read aloud. Prairie, who has been taught at home by her Grammy, heads to
school for the first time when her family moves to New York to a farm her
mother inherited. She isn’t “much used to children,” preferring her chickens’
company. When she discovers her new friend, Ivy, has a dark secret at home,
she’s determined to help. Details about raising chickens included.
Applegate, Katherine. The One and Only Ivan. Harper. Fantasy. Gr. 4-6. 305p. Good read aloud. A powerful first person account by Ivan, a silverback gorilla
who lives at the Big Top Mall and Video Arcade in a tiny cement enclosure. When
their cruel owner mistreats Ruby, a new baby elephant, Ivan rebels and vows to
free Ruby. Based on the life of a real gorilla, the story leaves readers with
questions about how captive animals should be treated.
Bauer, Marion Dane. Little Dog, Lost. Atheneum Books for Young Readers. Poetic narrative. Gr. 4-6. 197p.Good read aloud. Mark, whose father left, is trying to convince his mom that what he really needs is a dog. His mother, also the mayor of their town, says no
repeatedly. Enter the town recluse, Charles Larue, and a dog named Buddy, whose
family has moved away. A rally of kids and a thunderstorm pull this lonely trio
together. Written in free verse with simple black and white illustrations, this
is a must read for pet lovers.
Beck, W. H. Malcolm at Midnight. Houghton Mifflin. Fantasy. Gr. 4-6. 265p. Good read aloud. The classroom pets at McKenna Elementary School form a secret
society. Malcolm, a newly acquired rat, joins but finds himself immediately
fighting prejudice aimed at rodents. An iguana goes missing and a vicious
villain has plans to poison the school’s water supply. The story is written as
an anonymous note to the fifth grade teacher.
Bell, Juliet. Kepler’s Dream. Puffin. Mystery. Gr. 5-8. 247p. While Ella’s mother is
undergoing a procedure to treat her leukemia, the 11-year-old is sent to spend
the summer in New Mexico with the grandmother (aka GM for general major) who
she barely knows. Her awkward visit quickly changes when a rare astronomy book
goes missing from GM’s private library. Ella forms an amateur detective agency
with a new friend to locate the book and digs up some volatile family secrets
during her search. Ella’s clever observations add insight to the narration.
Cerullo, Mary M. Giant Squid: Searching for a Sea Monster. Capstone Press. Nonfiction. Gr. 4-8. 48p. Sailors told stories of monstrous sea creatures centuries before scientists realized they had been describing the giant squid, a nearly 50-foot long cephalopod, finally identified in the 19th century. This book focuses on the squid’s behavior, life cycle, and physical attributes as well as on Dr. Clyde Roper, who has studied
the species extensively. Color photos — of a squid’s giant eyeball, Dr. Roper
posing by a carcass — give readers a close-up look at this deep-sea wonder.
Coville, Bruce. Always October. Harper. Horror. Gr. 4-6. 367p. Sixth grader Jake Doolittle’s adopted baby brother, LD, is a monster…really! In the moonlight he grows fangs and green fur. Jake and his best friend, Lily, take turns telling this tale as they realize that Unravelers from another world, called Always October, are after LD and out to destroy the Woven Worlds. A great combination of horror and humor.
Evans, Lissa. Horten’s Miraculous Mechanisms: Magic,
Mystery & A Very Strange Adventure. Sterling Children’s Books. Mystery. Gr. 4-6. 270p. Stuart, a very short 10-year-old, moves to his father’s boring hometown and finds out that his great uncle, Teeny Tiny Tim Horton, a famous magician and inventor, vanished 50 years ago. He left a puzzle box to Stuart’s father that leads to clues scattered around town. Stuart searches, thwarted initially by the girl next door who seems to follow him everywhere. Can he find his uncle’s hidden workshop?
Fearing, Mark. Earthling! Chronicle Books. Graphic novel. Gr. 4-6. 244p. Bud accidentally catches the wrong school bus and ends up at Cosmos Academy, an intergalactic school where Earthlings are despised. He is befriended by a green alien, Gort, who suggests Bud pretend to be a Tenarian exchange student until they can find a
way to get him back to Earth. Plenty of unique alien drawings in this tale of
prejudice, bullies, and creative problem-solving.
Fleming, Candace. On the Day I Died: Stories from the Grave. Schwartz & Wade Books. Short stories. Gr. 6-8. Good read aloud. A teenager driving recklessly late at night, ends up in a cemetery full of teenage ghosts. Nine ghosts describe the magic mirrors and
monkey’s paws, demon hood ornaments, hoarders, and other chilling circumstances
that helped cause their deaths in the Chicago area between 1853 and 2012.
Historic details enhance each story.
Healy, Christopher. The Hero’s Guide to Saving Your Kingdom. Walden Pond Press. Humorous fiction. Gr. 4-8. 438p. Ever wonder what kind of a guy Prince Charming really was? In this slapstick tale four princes (belonging to Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Snow White, and Rapunzel) team up to combat a witch and save their kingdoms. Each prince is uniquely inept in Healy’s funny, debut novel.
Hearst, Michael. Unusual Creatures: A Mostly Accurate
Account of Some of Earth’s Strangest Animals. Chronicle Books. Nonfiction. Gr. 4-8. 109p. A fun collection of 50unique animals, alphabetically arranged from axolotl to yeti crab. Each entry includes an illustration of the animal, its physical characteristics and a map of its habitats. Meet the barking spider, the flying snake, and the giant, 10-foot
long Gippsland earthworm. The author includes pop quizzes, poems, and other
humorous asides about these oddities of nature.
Hunt, Lynda. One for the Murphys. Puffin. Realistic fiction. Gr. 4-8. 224p. Good read aloud. A heart-wrenching story about 12-year-old Carey Connors, sent to a foster home after a violent night with her mother and stepfather. While her real mother recovers in the hospital, Carey moves in with the almost-too-good-to-be-true Mrs. Murphy, her firefighter husband and their three sons. Well-drawn characters and surprising revelations make this a dramatic debut.
Kelly, Lynne. Chained. Farrar Straus Giroux. Realistic fiction. Gr. 4-8. 248p. Hoping to pay off family debts, 10-yearold Hastin takes what sounds like a dream job as an elephant keeper for a circus. He ends up in a jungle far from his family, working for an unscrupulous man. The boy realizes he is trapped as much as Nandita, the 2-year-old elephant he cares for and loves. A kindly Burmese cook befriends Hastin who dreams of escape for himself and his beloved elephant.
Key, Watt. Fourmile. Farrar Straus Giroux. Realistic fiction. Gr. 6-8. 227p. Foster and his dog, Joe, are wary of his mother’s new boyfriend, Dax. He’s mean and often drunk. When a mysterious hiker begins working on their Alabama farm, Dax is jealous. Gary, the newcomer and a former Army Ranger, is handy, hardworking, and he wins the trust of 12-year-old Foster. The boy narrates the escalating and violent conflict between the two men.
Korman, Gordon. Ungifted. Balzer + Bray. Realistic fiction. Gr. 4-8. 280p. Can Donovan Curtis, average intelligence, above-average troublemaker, hide out in a school for gifted and talented students? A clerical error sends him to the Academy of Scholastic Distinction, instead of expelling him from his regular school. The boy, voted “Most Likely to Wind Up in Jail” by his classmates, joins his new school’s robotics team. Classmates, teachers, his sister, the superintendent, as well as Donovan, all take turns narrating this appealing tale.
Kraatz, Jeramey. The Cloak Society. Harper. Fantasy. Gr. 5-8. 278p. Alex Knight wants to be just like his parents – a super villain in the elite and nefarious Cloak Society. But on his first mission, a bank robbery, he saves the life of a Junior Ranger, a shape-changing girl who is on the side of right. This debut novel, featuring superheroes with metal skin and telepathic powers, is full of intriguing characters and a boy facing up to doubts about his parents’ motives and his own future. There’s an added difficulty: his mother’s superpower is mind-reading.
Lacey, Josh. Island of Thieves. Houghton Mifflin. Adventure/survival fiction. Gr. 5-8. 228p. Tom blackmails his somewhat shady uncle into taking him along to Peru where Uncle Harvey is headed in search of the lost treasure of Sir Frances Drake. Soon the
duo are dodging bullets, fleeing cars, and climbing the Andes in a rollicking
adventure/mystery. A brief historical note describes Drake and his journal.
Levine, Kristin. The Lions of Little Rock. G.P. Putnam’s Sons. Historical fiction. Gr. 5-8. 298p. A budding friendship between shy Marlee, a selective mute, and
Lizzie, an outgoing new girl, starts trouble for both girls when it turns out Lizzie
has been passing for white in their racially charged Arkansas school. It’s 1958
and the 12-year-olds suddenly find themselves coping with race relations and
adult politics. A powerful story about finding your voice.
Lewis, J. Patrick, ed. National Geographic Book of Animal Poetry. National Geographic. Nonfiction. Gr. 4-6. 183p. Incredible animal photos
– a frilled lizard with his collar fully displayed, a hippopotamus with a
grass-filled mouth, a snail gliding up a stem — accompany 200 poems selected
by the U.S. children’s poet laureate (Lewis). Haiku, free verse, shape poems,
limericks, and other verse help readers imagine and consider the animals
organized into groups of the big, the little, the winged, water dwellers, the
strange, the noisy and the quiet. The poems give added meaning to the stunning
Lin, Grace. Starry River of the Sky. Little, Brown. Folklore. Gr. 4-8. 288p. The moon is missing from the Village of Clear Sky and problems abound among its residents. Rendi, a runaway angry at his father, comes to town and works for an innkeeper whose own
son is missing. An out-of-town guest arrives with a gift for storytelling and
gently persuades Rendi to tell his own tales. Stories based on traditional
Chinese folktales are woven together with this original narrative. Beautifully
detailed, full-color illustrations lend charm to this folklore/mystery.
Messner, Kate. Capture the Flag. Scholastic Press. Mystery. Gr. 4-6. 231p. Three teens meet in Washington D.C. and band together to recover the flag that inspired “The
Star-Spangled Banner.” It’s recently been stolen from a vault at the Smithsonian
Museum. Anna, an aspiring reporter, Jose, an avid reader, and Henry, a video game fanatic, think the flag might be stuck at the same airport where they are snowed in.
Nielsen, Jennifer A. The False Prince. Scholastic Press. Adventure/survival fiction. Gr. 5-8. 342p. Good read aloud. The kingdom of Carthya is facing civil war. One
nobleman plans to recruit four orphans and train them to impersonate a
long-lost prince who is heir to the throne since the royal family has been
poisoned. He’ll install one boy as his puppet ruler and the other boys will be
killed! Deception, desperation, intrigue all factor into this fast-paced, surprising
tale, the first in a planned trilogy.
Palacio, R.J. Wonder. Yearling Books. Realistic fiction. Gr. 5-8. 320p. An ordinary-on-the-inside fifth grader with a frightening facial deformity prepares to attend private school for the first time. He has had 27 surgeries to help correct what he calls his “mushed-up face.” A cast of bullies, friends, and relations all adjust to Auggie’s uniqueness while he struggles to fit in. This truly memorable story, told in eight parts by Auggie and other
characters, chronicles his attempt to be accepted as normal and the effect his
presence has on his school community.
Pennypacker, Sara. Summer of the Gypsy Moths. Balzer + Bray. Realistic fiction. Gr. 4-6. 275p. Stella lives with her great-aunt Louise and a foster child, Angel, who her aunt has taken into her Cape Cod home. Aunt Louise, who manages a group of vacation cottages, dies suddenly. The girls are afraid what the authorities might do with them, so they decide to bury Louise in the garden and pretend she is still around. How long can they survive on tourists’ leftovers and lies?
Poblocki, Dan. The Ghost of Graylock. Scholastic Press. Horror. Gr. 5-8. 264p. A chilling tale about four kids who decide to explore an abandoned psychiatric hospital where three young patients died under mysterious circumstances. The nurse, originally
accused in the deaths, supposedly committed suicide. Neil Cady, who is new in
town, decides to check out the premises, but something follows him home. Be
ready for eerie events and cliffhanging chapters with plenty of twists.
Preus, Margi. Shadow on the Mountain. Amulet Books. Historical fiction. Gr. 6-8. 286p. Based on the real-lifeadventures of a young Norwegian during World War II, this is a dramatic, suspenseful tale of Espen, 14, who vows to fight against the Nazi occupation of his beloved Norway. He delivers underground newspapers, takes messages to Resistance fighters, and finally becomes a spy himself. His near-escapes on bicycles and skiis, along with the opposing stances his boyhood friends take toward Germany, make this a riveting read.
Ritter, John H. Fenway Fever. Philomel Books. Sports fiction. Gr. 4-8. 230p. When the Red Sox go on a losing streak, a pitcher teams up with a young friend, Stats Pagano, a hot-dog vendor with a passion for baseball statistics. Stats has a heart defect and his family’s hot dog stand is in debt. Can Stats and Billee Orbitt, the pitcher, bring the magic back to the Sox? A timely story as Fenway Park celebrates its 100th birthday.
Rodkey, Geoff. Deadweather and Sunrise. G.P. Putnam’s Sons. Adventure/survival fiction. Gr. 5-8. 296p. Egbert (Egg) is 13 when his entire family is lost in a hot-air
balloon accident and he is taken in by the wealthy Roger Pembroke, who tries to
kill him. There is reportedly treasure on the ugly fruit plantation owned by
Egg’s family and worked by retired pirates. Can Egg survive with only young
Millicent Pembroke and a one-handed, somewhat demented cabin boy as allies? A
debut novel, the first in the Chronicles of Egg series.
Rusch, Elizabeth. The Mighty Mars Rovers: The Incredible
Adventures of Spirit and Opportunity. Houghton Mifflin. Nonfiction. Gr. 5-8. 79p. In 2003 the rovers were launched to find out if Mars ever had water that could have supported life. Expected to function for three months, the rovers kept sending data for six
years. This book details their creation and also examines the human side of
space exploration, featuring Steven Squyres, the lead scientist on this amazingly successful space research project. Illustrations, photographs, charts and diagrams help readers understand the challenges of communicating with a distant planet.
Schlitz, Laura Amy. Splendors and Glooms. Candlewick Press. Fantasy. Gr. 6-8. 384p. Clara, the only surviving child of a wealthy doctor, is captivated by the puppets of Grisini, a magician, in this Victorian gothic novel set in London in 1860. Grisini and his young
assistants, Lizzie Rose and Parsefall, perform for Clara’s twelfth birthday. Then she vanishes. This is a suspenseful tale, with plenty of period details and believable characters.
Schrefer, Eliot. Endangered. Scholastic Press. Adventure/survival fiction. Gr. 7-8. 264p.
Sophie, on her way to visit her mother’s animal sanctuary in the Congo, rescues
a young, sickly bonobo she names Otto. Civil war breaks out and the 14-year-old
is determined to protect Otto. She hides with the apes on their 30-acre
sanctuary. Then she flees with Otto through the countryside to find her mother,
facing starvation, harsh terrain, and rebel soldiers.
Sheinkin, Steve. Bomb: The Race to Build — and Steal –
the World’s Most Dangerous Weapon. Roaring Brook Press. Nonfiction. Gr. 7-8. 266p. America gathers scientists at Los Alamos to build an atomic bomb, as Soviets send spies to steal those plans, and a Norwegian resistance fighter parachutes into Norway to destroy Germany’s heavy water plant to stall Hitler’s nuclear hopes. Archival photos of key figures in this real-world drama start each section of the book. Sheinkin makes history come alive in his compelling account of an event that changed the world.
Stead, Rebecca. Liar & Spy. Wendy Lamb Books. Realistic fiction. Gr. 5-8. 180p. Is the mysterious Mr. X on the fourth floor a murderer? Safer, a homeschooled boy, convinces Georges, a new middle school tenant, to join his spy club to find out. The boys use the lobby cam in the apartment lobby to track their suspect. Georges, whose father is out of work and whose mother is a nurse working double shifts, is ready for a diversion, but all is not what it seems. Surprising secrets and deceptions are eventually revealed in this
exploration of the meaning of friendship.
TenNapel, Doug. Cardboard. Graphix. Graphic novel. Gr. 5-8.
283p. Cam’s jobless father gives him a cardboard box for his birthday. They create a boxer and it comes to life. Their spoiled, mean neighbor, Marcus, steals the cardboard and creates an army of trouble. Intriguing cardboard monsters populate this story of conflict
Thomson, Jamie. Dark Lord: The Early Years. Walker & Co. Science fiction. Gr. 5-8. 290p. Good read aloud. The Dark Lord, ruler of the legions of the Dark Land, wakes up lying in the parking lot of the Savemart Supermarket in the body of a 13-year-old boy. He yearns to return to his Iron Tower of Despair, on another plane, but instead, humans place him in a foster home and enroll him in middle school! His supernatural powers seem dissipated on Earth. Is he really an alien or maybe just a delusional child? A wickedly funny tale, with an evil hero who attracts a group of seventh-grade minions while managing to learn something about the power of good. The first in a series.
Voorhoeve, Anne C. My Family for the War. Dial Books. Historical fiction. Gr.
6-8. 402p. At age 10 Franziska Mangold is smuggled out of Germany on a kindertransport, one of the trains that took Jewish children to foster families in London. A practicing Protestant with Jewish ancestors, she leaves her family, friends, and her identity in Berlin behind and begins a new life as Frances. Her real mother stays in Germany hoping to rescue Ziska’s father from a concentration camp. This memoir-like narrative, orginally published in Germany, gives readers a fresh look at World War II, one that
examines the impact of war on civilians.
For last year’s and previous year’s winner, go to the Maine Student Book Award website