When Roland’s teacher gives him an unusual assignment instead of punishment for shoplifting, he thinks he is home free. All he has to do is find out what he can about a classmate, Jess Ferret, and report back to his teacher. But there is something less than straightforward about this request, especially because the more Roland learns about Jess, the more confused he becomes. Her house is sinisterly tidy, her parents are never home, mysterious books line the bookshelves, and, most intriguing of all, Jess is apparently a student of alchemy. Why is Roland’s teacher so interested in Jess? Why has a shady magician from Roland’s past suddenly come back into his life? What exactly are the voices in Roland’s head cautioning him against? And what is the reason for Jess Ferret’s knowledge about alchemy? In searching for answers Roland finds himself trapped in a mysterious web of magic, power, and greed. This is the story of a terrifying war of magic versus willpower, told only as award-winning author Margaret Mahy can.
Six-year-old Annie’s world is shattered when she is forced to carry a horrible secret: Under the pretense of reading to her, an older boy molests her, threatening her if she ever tells. Only when her mother pries out the secret is Annie released from her horror and isolation. Slowly she begins to heal, and before the summer is over, she even learns to swim.
Just before summer begins, 13-year-old Ali finds an odd photograph in the attic. She knows the two children in it are her mother, Claire, and her aunt Dulcie. But who’s the third person, the one who’s been torn out of the picture?
Ali figures she’ll find out while she’s vacationing in Maine with Dulcie and her four-year-old daughter, Emma, in the house where Ali’s mother’s family used to spend summers. All hopes for relaxation are quashed shortly after their arrival, though, when the girls meet Sissy, a kid who’s mean and spiteful and a bad influence on Emma.
Strangest of all, Sissy keeps talking about a girl named Teresa who drowned under mysterious circumstances back when Claire and Dulcie were kids, and whose body was never found. At first Ali thinks Sissy’s just trying to scare her with a ghost story, but soon she discovers the real reason why Sissy is so angry. . . . Mary Downing Hahn is at her chilling best in this new supernatural tale that’s certain to send shivers down her readers’ spines.
Lost in a River of Grass is in the tradition of survival stories like Hatchet or On My Side of the Mountain, where the young protagonist finds herself as she struggles to survive in an unforgiving wilderness. In this case, the setting is the Everglades, and Sarah, the 13-year-old narrator, sneaks away from an overnight school field trip for what was supposed to be a quick airboat ride with Andy, a boy who lives in the preserve. Naturally, disaster strikes and they’re forced to walk out of the Everglades (they’ve got a knife, a small amount of Gatorade and some suspicious Spam). The author also skillfully layers in a story about overcoming prejudice. Sarah is black and Andy is the son of a Confederate-flag waving self-described redneck.
He was busy reading the drugstore bulletin board when Madigan first saw him. He sure was good looking! His hair was dark and he had a full beard with a mustache that curled up on the ends and hid his mouth, just as his silver sunglasses hid his eyes. Then he walked right up to the soda fountain where Madigan and her friend Angie were sipping cherry Cokes, and asked for directions to Madigan’s house! Now the handsome “mystery man” is renting a room in her very own home — and Madigan is about to take some dangerous risks to find who he is.
As a high school student I read Jane Eyre. Jane, a retelling of that story in a modern day situation intrigued me to its end, although I felt the conclusion of this Jane was more satisfying. The growing romance between Jane and the rock star Nico kept me reading even though some elements of the plot did not seem believable. It’s difficult to keep secrets in a present day mansion with intercom, the visiting media crew, journalists, and photographers at every corner. Jane Eyre captured that secrecy and shame theme in a more believable way.
This story of a homeless, nameless girl’s plight to be well fed, warm, and content with her place in life is set in the 14th century in England. She becomes the apprentice of the local midwife, Jane. As she toils to earn her keep, she learns the part-doctor, part-magic profession of midwifery. The author’s descriptive telling of sometimes shocking adventures opens the reader’s mind to a culture far removed from present day. I can definitely understand why this bravely written book that makes you rejoice with each success the child has and also feel sorry for her suffering is a Newberry Award winner.