The Rookie Bookie

The Rookie Bookie by L. Jon Wertheim and Tobias Moskowitz is a nominee for the 2016-17 South Carolina Children’s Book Award.

Mitch Sloan is the new kid at school, and he doesn’t have the best luck when it comes to fitting in. At his old school in California, he was bullied for being a nerd. He doesn’t want the same thing to happen here in Indiana, so Mitch tries out for the football team and attempts to tone down his love of math, money, and correcting people.

One person who seems to connect with Mitch immediately is Jamie, a girl who loves sports as much as Mitch does. She examines strategy just like he does, and he finally feels like someone finally gets him…and he absolutely does NOT have a crush on her.

One day, Mitch and Jamie take their love of sports to the next level, and they bet on a pro football game. Mitch uses his love of strategy and statistics to skew the bet in his favor, and, though Jamie is upset at first, an idea begins to take shape. What if they can get other kids at school to bet on some games? Mitch and Jamie could serve as middle-men–or bookies–and make a little money with no risk to their own wallets. What could possibly go wrong?

Pretty soon, kids are lining up at Mitch’s locker to make bets and receive their winnings. Mitch and Jamie are making money, their “customers” are having fun, and Mitch feels what it’s like to be popular. He kind of likes the feeling, even though he wonders just how many of these people are really his friends.

Eventually, this business begins to spiral out of control, and Mitch and Jamie find themselves in more trouble than either of them have ever been in. (Who knew that operating a middle school gambling ring was against the rules?) Can their friendship recover from this huge mess? And can they find a way to redeem themselves in the eyes of their parents, their classmates, their teachers, and the whole school?

Answer these questions and many more when you read The Rookie Bookie!

Always, Abigail

Always, Abigail by Nancy J. Cavanaugh is a nominee for the 2016-17 South Carolina Children’s Book Award.

Told in lists and letters, Always, Abigail is the tale of–you guessed it–Abigail. This young girl is entering sixth grade, and she and her two best friends are obsessed with making the school’s pom-pom squad. Her life will be over if she doesn’t make it. (Anybody recognize the middle school melodrama?) It’s bad enough that she and her BFFs aren’t in the same homeroom and she’s been saddled with the school loser for a year-long project. Surely the universe wouldn’t take poms from her too?!

As you may have guessed, Abigail doesn’t make the pom-pom squad. She is devastated and doesn’t really know what to do anymore. Her friends are always busy and now have inside jokes that she’s not privy to. Abigail is feeling left out, bored, and depressed, and she’s not sure how to change things. Her partner for her class’ “Friendly Letter Assignment” doesn’t help matters.

Gabby Marco is the outcast of the sixth grade, and she’s Abigail’s letter partner. At first, Abigail wants absolutely nothing to do with Gabby, but, as Abigail’s friends drift away, she and Gabby form an unlikely friendship. The two girls learn more about each other and realize they have more in common than they thought.

But Gabby is still an outcast, and Abigail’s so-called “friends” delight in tormenting this girl, not knowing anything about what she’s going through at home. But Abigail knows…and she stays silent. She knows she should stand up for Gabby, but she doesn’t want to risk becoming an outcast herself. Abigail is sick about the entire situation, and she feels like she’s about to explode.

When Abigail’s luck looks like it’s starting to change, she’ll be forced to make some truly difficult decisions. Will she continue to go along with the crowd, or will she stand up for a friend who’s been nothing but kind to her…even if it means losing all she’s ever wanted? Find out when you read Always, Abigail by Nancy J. Cavanaugh.

Emperor Pickletine Rides the Bus

Emperor Pickletine Rides the Bus picks up where Princess Labelmaker to the Rescue ended, and the kids from McQuarrie Middle School are in for yet another adventure…one without Origami Yoda!

Now that the FunTime Menace is no more, the students of McQuarrie Middle now get to enjoy things like elective classes and, of course, their highly anticipated field trip to Washington, DC. But what will they do when Rabbski, their principal-turned-math-teacher declares that origami–especially Origami Yoda–is off-limits? How will these seventh graders survive without the sage advice of Origami Yoda?!

Have no fear! Dwight is here…with a bunch of Fruit Roll-Ups he folds into Fruitigami Yodas. Unfortunately, the vile Harvey also comes prepared with EMPEROR PICKLETINE, the most evil, sour, and smelly being in the galaxy! Harvey and Emperor Pickletine seem bent on ruining this field trip, and the Dark Side may be more powerful than anyone realized. Is Fruitigami Yoda strong enough to fight this new threat?

As the seventh graders of McQuarrie Middle explore Washington, DC (and get into a fair amount of trouble), a battle is brewing between the Dark and Light Sides of the Force.

Who will win? Will Yoda come through for the Origami Rebellion one more time? Well, I can’t say. But I can tell you that this final battle is full of mischief-making, fisticuffs, space food, and even a little bit of smooching! I’ll leave it to you to find out who does what!

To learn more about all things Origami Yoda, click here. May the Force be with you!

Princess Labelmaker to the Rescue!

Note: Read the first four Origami Yoda books before reading this post!

The Origami Rebellion thought they had won a victory when Principal Rabbski agreed to see about putting an end to the horribly boring, soul-crushing FunTime program. This expensive test-prep program put an end to their field trips, electives, and everything else that really made school fun. Even the teachers hate it.

But FunTime seems to be Force-choking McQuarrie Middle. The students are still sitting through the mind-numbing videos and worksheets, and Principal Rabbski doesn’t appear to be doing much to stop it.

So what’s a rebellion to do? They ask the advice of the puppet that started it all: Origami Yoda. Yoda urges the rebellion to let Principal Rabbski take a look at their extensive case file (which details how everyone really feels about FunTime). Since there are entries that paint Rabbski in a rather unflattering light, the rebellion disagrees.

Someone, though, has taken matters into her own hands. The mysterious Princess Labelmaker has given Rabbski the case file, hoping that it will convince the principal to finally take action against the evil FunTime Empire.

Will the Origami Rebellion finally get their principal to turn from the Dark Side? Who is the rogue rebel who gave the case file to Rabbski, and was that act worth it? Will the FunTime Menace finally be vanquished? Find out when you read Princess Labelmaker to the Rescue! by Tom Angleberger.

Jedi Academy

A few months ago, one of my 5th grade students brought a book to my attention:  Jedi Academy. (How awesome is it that my students know how much I love Star Wars and look for ways to enjoy it with me!) I was totally charmed by this comic book/diary, and I think the same will be true of many Star Wars fans, no matter their ages.  Jedi Academy is kind of like Diary of a Wimpy Kid set a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, and I think it sends the message that middle school is hard on everyone…even aspiring Jedi!

Roan has always dreamed of going to pilot school, but what’s a poor kid on Tatooine to do when he’s not accepted? Roan is sure he’s going to end up at farm school, but he receives a letter that will change everything. Roan has been accepted into the Jedi Academy!  He’ll study at the Jedi Temple on Coruscant and learn all about the Force, lightsabers, and all that other cool Jedi stuff.

Roan is very nervous about this new adventure. What if he’s not Jedi material? Most of the other kids have been training since they were toddlers. How can Roan hope to catch up? Well, he’ll have some help from his teachers, including Jedi Master Yoda (who is a young 700-year-old in this book), and some new friends.

Will Roan have problems at the Jedi Academy? Sure! All middle schoolers do! Bullies, girls, learning new things, feeling unsure, exploding science fair projects, and finding a place to fit in. Roan goes through all of that, but he might just discover that he’s stronger than anyone (including Roan) ever realized. Is the Force strong in Roan? Read Jedi Academy to find out!

Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Hard Luck

Greg Heffley’s life is not going well.  His best friend Rowley now has a girlfriend.  Where does that leave Greg?  Out in the cold. Suddenly, Greg has to walk to and from school by himself, carry his own books, sit with other people at lunch, worry about who to play with at recess, and find something to do after school.  Who knew that losing your best friend would cause so much trouble?!

Middle school is no picnic at the best of times.  It’s even worse when you don’t have a best friend (and you’re not sure how to make more friends). Eventually, though, Greg thinks he’s found a way to make things a little better.  He’ll leave his fate up to a Magic 8 Ball!  This shouldn’t cause any problems at all, right? Right?!

Join Greg Heffley as he navigates the halls of middle school–girls, cafeteria seating, recess games, making friends–and his somewhat unpredictable family. Will Greg’s luck ever change?  Find out when you read Hard Luck, the eighth book in Jeff Kinney’s Diary of a Wimpy Kid series!

The Surprise Attack of Jabba the Puppett

In this fourth book in the Origami Yoda series, the students of McQuarrie Middle School are facing a terrible evil.  More evil than the Empire. More evil than a Sith Lord without his morning coffee.  More evil than Jar Jar Binks. (Well, maybe not that bad.)  This semester, the school is eliminating all electives–Lego robotics, drama, music, yearbook–and forcing kids to spend those class times watching the horrible FunTime videos that are supposed to help increase standardized test scores.

As one can probably imagine, the students are not happy about this, and, with the help of Captain Dwight and Origami Yoda, they decide to do something about it. The students of McQuarrie Middle form their own Rebel Alliance and try to figure out a way to put an end to FunTime (and it’s stupid singing calculator). Their plan is risky, but it may just work if they can get enough kids on board. Armed with a battalion of origami Star Wars figures, the students of McQuarrie Middle seek to restore order and balance to the Force at their school.

Will the Rebel Alliance succeed in defeating the dreaded FunTime Menace, or is this war bigger than they realize? And what will this rebel band do when help comes from a surprising source? Learn just how much a determined group of kids can accomplish when you read The Surprise Attack of Jabba the Puppett by Tom Angleberger! May the Force be with you!