My Rotten Life by David Lubar. (Grades 3-5.)
Tor Starscape, August 2009.
Review copy provided by publisher.
Nathan Abercrombie is worse than the school's biggest loser - he's one of the Second Besters, the kids who are only ever second best (or second worse) at anything (and completely invisible to everyone but each other). When he is doused by a serum that slowly turns his body into a walking dead zombie, Nathan will have to figure out the antidote before it's too late.
There are good things and bad things about being a zombie. Good thing = setting a record in pull-ups on field day because your muscles never get tired. Bad thing = your body no longer digests the food you eat. While Nathan enjoys some of his special zombie abilities, he doesn't want to stay dead forever. It'll take teamwork between Nathan and two of his friends to get all the ingredients for an antidote. Along the way, Nathan finds out that people aren't always what they seem.
If you've got kids who are fans of Diary of a Wimpy Kid and Bruce Coville, you'll want to hand them this book. It's more than a little wacky and more than a little gross, but the story also has a lot of heart. Short, action-packed chapters will keep kids turning the pages and the ending, while wrapping up the story, leaves room for the next book in the series. Kids will be clamoring for it.
Read more reviews at Good Books for Kids and Kidliterate, and check out this fantastic book trailer:
Extra Credit by Andrew Clements. (Grades 4-6.)
Atheneum, June 2009.
(This is a 2009 Cybils nominee and this review reflects only my personal opinion of the book, not necessarily the opinion of the panel!)
When Abby Carson learns she's in danger of failing the sixth grade, her teacher assigns her an extra credit assignment to help with her social studies grade. Abby will write to a pen pal in Afghanistan and then present a report to the class. When Sadeed writes back to her, Abby learns that although they are different, they are also the same, and she begins to see her life in America through new eyes.
Andrew Clements is a master of middle grade fiction. In Extra Credit he brings Abby and Sadeed to life and paints a very believable picture of their friendship. I also love the fact that Abby is into rock climbing and the outdoors while Sadeed is into reading and school. I honestly didn't want to stop reading about these characters. With the middle east in the news so often, this would make a great classroom title and it might inspire elementary students to pick up a pen and make their own connections across the globe. Consider pairing it with Afghan Dreams for more stories of children in Afghanistan.
Read more reviews at Literate Lives and A Patchwork of Books.