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Drowned Towns, Eccentric Puzzles, and Time-Traveling Kids: New Books for Older Readers

Escape from Mr. Lemoncello's LibraryEscape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library by Chris Grabenstein
Mr. Lemoncello, an eccentric game and puzzle designer, has funded a library in his home town. For the grand opening, Mr. Lemoncello (think Willy Wonka) holds an essay contest and a dozen lucky twelve-year-old winners will be the first to enter and encounter the mysteries of this futuristic library. Soon after they enter, the children realize that they will not be coming home as soon as they thought. Mr. Lemoncello has locked them in for the night, and only the solution to a complex puzzle will lead to the secret passageway heading out of the library. Fabulous prizes and glory await, but they must solve the puzzle while following some simple rules or they will be eliminated. Kyle Keeley quickly realizes that he should form a team with some of the contestants (Team Keeley) so they can work together to decipher the codes and puzzles. Charles Chilington, Kyle’s nemesis, expects to win and will do anything to get there. Kids who enjoy solving puzzles, mysteries, and codes and are fans of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, The Candymakers or The Gollywhopper Games will love this book. (ages 9-12)

afteririsAfter Iris by Natasha Farrant
Chaos is the norm for The Gadsby Family. Their family has fallen apart since the tragic death three years earlier of Iris, Blue’s twin. Our narrator, Blue, is a budding documentarian and we learn about her family and late sister through video scripts and her diary. Her parents are largely absent working on their careers, at least that’s their excuse. Sixteen-year-old sister Flora copes by dying her hair a new color every day; younger siblings Twig and Jasmine spend their days playing with their pet rats and yearning for attention from their parents. Blue has become withdrawn and feels invisible. Enter au pair Zoran, who becomes instrumental in helping them all face their sorrow, and teenage neighbor Joss, who befriends Blue and actually listens to her. After Iris is as funny (think pet rats in motorized cars) as it is poignant. Kids will enjoy getting to know Blue and seeing her through what seems insurmountable grief, her first crush, and her journey to become visible again. (ages 10-14)

belowBelow by Meg McKinlay
On the day Cassie was born, they drowned her town. The mayor flipped a switch, and Old Lower Grange was gone under five thousand swimming pools of water. Cassie, now 12, is drawn to her town’s history. What mysteries lie beneath the waters on the forbidden side of the lake? One afternoon, she swims in the waters that cover Old Lower Grange and discovers the very top of the Old Fire Tree. After nearly drowning, she is saved by fellow classmate, Liam, who also becomes intrigued by Old Lower Grange and its sunken mysteries. Together they explore these forbidden waters and uncover answers to an unsolved mystery about the death of Liam’s twin that has forever haunted him, his family and the town. Boys and girls who enjoy mysteries will become as immersed in the mysterious waters of Old Lower Grange as Cassie and Liam. (ages 9-12)

odessaagainOdessa Again by Dana Reinhardt
Nine-year-old Odessa Green-Light, her mom, and her little brother, Oliver, have just moved into a new house. Odessa’s parents have recently divorced, and she is struggling with the idea of her family not being together. One day, Odessa’s mom sends her to her attic bedroom for fighting with Oliver, and angry Odessa stomps right through the floorboards. After a very confusing conversation with her mom, she realizes that she has actually gone back in time 24 hours. Can she do it again? When she realizes she can go back in time one hour less each time, she also realizes the power that it holds, both good and bad. Odessa knows she can fix many embarrassing moments and undo things she doesn’t like (bangs, for example), but as her opportunities to go back in time become fewer, she must decide what is the most important things to try and change. Odessa Again will appeal to readers who like books about kids their age with real life problems and a bit of fantasy thrown in to keep it interesting. (ages 8-12)

-Jessica

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