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Bystander by James Preller

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    1. Bystander by James Preller Eric Hayes has moved from Ohio to Long Island, NY, with his mother and younger brother. His schizophrenic father left long ago. Eric soon meets Griffin Connelly, a handsome kid with natural leadership, lots of charisma, and a real mean streak. While Griffin is the perfect bully, David Hallenback is the perfect victim: beaten down and willing to do anything to get Griffin's approval. At first, Eric is a bystander, not participating in the bullying but not doing anything to stop it. However, several events move him out of this passive role: Griffin steals from him and reveals Eric's confidences about his father; adults at school address bullying; and Mary, a girl he likes, takes a stand against it. Eric realizes that his silence makes him complicit and speaks out, only to become Griffin's next victim.

    2. Closed for the Season by Mary Downing Hahn This book starts off as seventh-grader Logan Forbes learns that a murder had been committed in his family's new house three years earlier. Myrtle Donaldson, a bookkeeper accused of embezzling from the local amusement park, was found dead in her ransacked house and her killer is still at large. Logan's next-door neighbor, Arthur Jenkins, a sixth grader with a bottomless stomach and a quirky personality, is convinced that Mrs. Donaldson was falsely accused, and he wants Logan to help him find the real perpetrator. The boys discover a letter and puzzle left among the woman's possessions that convinces them they are on the right track. Their investigation includes visiting the abandoned and overgrown Magic Forest amusement park, a reporter with secrets, shady property developers, a menacing convict, and purloined library materials. It all culminates in a terrifying nighttime showdown among the kudzu at the Magic Forest where the truth is revealed.

    3. Cosmicby Frank Cottrell Boyce Liam is too big for his boots, his football strip, and his school blazer. But being super-sized height-wise has its advantages: he's the only eleven-year-old to ever ride the G-force defying Cosmic rollercoaster or be offered the chance to drive a Porsche. Long-legged Liam makes a giant leap for boy-kind by competing with a group of adults for the chance to go into space. Is Liam the best boy for the job? Sometimes being big isn't all about being a grown-up.

    4. Fishby Gregory Mone Reidy leaves his impoverished family farm in Ireland to be a messenger for his uncle in the city. When someone steals one of his deliveries, he swims after the thief's ship. He finds himself aboard the Scurvy Mistress, along with its determined treasure seeker Captain Cobb, the captain's wife, and a motley crew consisting of One-eyed Willies, British ex-Royal Navy men, and mutinous scalawags. The crew remains loyal to Cobb only as long as their stomachs and coffers stay full, and his idealistic decision to search for the legendary golden chain of Chuacar pushes the greedy first mate to stage an island mutiny. Fish draws on the skills he picked up from the crew members to rescue Cobb and those loyal to the captain.

    5. Half Brother by Kenneth Oppel Thirteen-year-old Ben Tomlin's whole world is changing. His parents, research scientists, have moved them across Canada to be with their newest subject, Zan. Intending to prove that chimpanzees are capable of intelligent thought and communication, the Tomlins teach the baby chimp sign language and incorporate him into their daily lives. Thrust into a new school and, essentially, a new family, Ben is caught in a whirl of new emotions, especially when the lovely Jennifer comes onto the scene. Though Zan learns sign language relatively well, his animal instincts gradually become more pronounced and Ben and his parents must make some important decisions about the chimp's future.

    6. One Crazy Summerby Rita Williams- Garcia It is 1968, and three black sisters from Brooklyn have been put on a California-bound plane by their father to spend a month with their mother, a poet who ran off years before and is living in Oakland.. Delphine, 11, remembers her mother, but after years of separation she's more apt to believe what her grandmother has said about her, that Cecile is a selfish, crazy woman who sleeps on the street. At least Cecile lives in a real house, but she reacts to her daughters' arrival without warmth or even curiosity. Instead, she sends the girls to eat breakfast at a center run by the Black Panther Party and tells them to stay out as long as they can so that she can work on her poetry. Over the course of the next four weeks, Delphine and her younger sisters, Vonetta and Fern, spend a lot of time learning about revolution and staying out of their mother's way.

    7. Out of My Mind by Sharon Draper Born with cerebral palsy, Melody, 10, has never spoken a word. She is a brilliant fifth grader trapped in an uncontrollable body. She will never sing or dance, talk on the phone, or whisper secrets to her friends. Pitted against her is the "normal" world: schools with limited resources, cliquish girls, superficial assumptions, and her own disability. Melody's life is tragically complicated. She is mainly placed in the special-ed classroom where education means being babysat in a room with replayed cartoons and nursery tunes. She learns the strength of thumbs as she taps on a special keyboard that finally lets her "talk." When she is transitioned into the regular classroom, Melody's undeniable contribution enables her class to make it to the national quiz team finals. Then something happens that causes her to miss the finals, and she is devastated by her classmates' actions.

    8. The Defense of Thaddeus A. Ledbetter by John Gosselink Thaddeus Ledbetter has gotten himself into a lot of trouble by staging an unauthorized safety drill at Crooked Creed Middle School. The consequence of his behavior is a yearlong, in-school suspension, which takes place in isolation with one tired teacher's aide for supervision. This gives Thaddeus much time to prepare his defense, the result of which is this humorous, over-the-top account of his misdeeds. The unauthorized safety drill was only one of several incidents involving the school. Besides these antics, Thaddeus is constantly trying to improve his principal's management skills and the teaching techniques of the faculty. Thaddeus's demands for improvements and, at times, spot-on advice and suggestions, make this an entertaining read.

    9. The Smoky Corridorby Chris Grabenstein Zach’s entrance into sixth grade is complicated by the brain-eating zombie that sleeps under the school guarding a Confederate treasure trove for a voodoo-practicing ghost waiting to take over the body of an unsuspecting child. With a maze of tunnels under it, a cemetery behind it, and guardian ghosts wandering through it, this middle school is far worse than most.

    10. Trash by Andy Mulligan Three young teens, trash-picker living in the city dump of an unnamed third-world country, discover a mysterious bag one morning, triggering a chain of events that will change their lives forever. Raphael, Gordo, and Rat take turns narrating the story of how they uncover a network of political corruption and abuse of the poor. Each puzzle the boys solve leads to yet a new riddle for them to work out. The chase leads them throughout the city, exposing the great disparity be-tween the “haves” and the “have nots,” and the huge injustice this represents. Several run-ins with the police make it clear that getting caught means death for the three boys.