Book Title: A Hen in the Wardrobe
Author: Wendy Meddour
Publish Date: 2012
Publisher: Francis Lincoln Children's Books
Series: Cinnamon Grove #1

Suggested Grade: 3rd, 4th grade

Suggested Format: Independent reading, small group

Ramzi is concerned when very strange things start happening in his home at night, like someone looking for a hen in the wardrobe. He is even more concerned when he realizes that it's his dad! His dad is sleepwalking because he is homesick, so the family decides to pack up and visit his Berber village in Algeria. Ramzi experiences a whole new world, very different from his home in London. Will the move and his secret plan help cure his dad so they can go back home?

Teacher's Notes: 
A different read for students in America, this book takes you on an adventure to Algeria in the mind of a child from London. Some of the words and phrases may be difficult for students depending on their familiarity with British English. This story does have several mentions of the Muslim faith, as their travels take them to a Muslim village, where his father grew up in the Muslim faith. I keep this book aside in my classroom, where I can be sure that a student who wants to read it has the blessing of their parent(s), as this can be a hot topic. While not my favorite book, it is a solid read.

Overall: 6/10

How I Got the Book: ARC from publisher

Suggested Interests: Fiction, Cultures and Travel
Book Title: The Owl Keeper
Author: Christine Brodien-Jones
Publish Date: 2010
Publisher: Scholastic

 The Owl Keeper Book Review | Elements of Elementary
The Owl Keeper by Christine Brodien-Jones

Suggested Grade: 6th and 7th grade, advanced 5th grade

Suggested Format: Independent reading

Maxwell Unger loves the night, mostly because he is allergic to sunlight. At night, the world seems right, unlike during the day, when everything seems strange and slightly off. He also loves owls, especially silver owls, because his grandmother used to tell him so many wonderful things about them. In this post-apocalyptic story, Max finds himself making an unusual friend, Rose, who is unlike anyone he has ever known. She causes him to begin to question who he really is, and what is going on around him. When they discover that the government has been working on a secret weapon, Max has to be brave to save both of his new friends -- Rose, and the silver owl that the government says is extinct. 

Teacher's Notes: 
As far as post-apocalyptic stories go, this one is not your run-of-the mill Zombie apocalypse. With the exception of Max and Rose, everyone is buying into the rhetoric that the government is preaching, and truly believe that the government is keeping them safe and providing a better life. This story is a fun read that leaves you guessing. I recommend it to my adult friends all the time, even though it's a YA read. Max learns courage, and also learns the importance of thinking for yourself and being unique.

Extra Activities: You can find an author-created discussion guide here.

Overall: 10/10

How I Got the Book: Purchased for my own collection

Suggested Interests: Fantasy, Post-Apocalyptic, Fiction
Book Title: The Golden Door
Author: Emily Rodda
Publish Date: 2013
Publisher: Scholastic
Series: Golden Door Trilogy

 The Golden Door Book Review | Elements of Elementary
The Golden Door by Emily Rodda

Suggested Grade: 5th & 6th grade

Suggested Format: Independent reading

"Three magic Doors
you here behold.
Time to choose:
Wood? Silver? Gold?"

Rye lives a normal life in the city of Weld, or at least as normal a life as anyone can live in a walled city with no gates, no way out, and flying dragons that attack at nighttime. The attacks are getting so bad that the governor is asking for volunteers to leave the city in search of where these attacks are coming from. Fortunately, Rye is too young to be considered for such things. Unfortunately, both of his older brothers are.
When his brothers are declared dead because they have been missing for too long, Rye takes it upon himself to go searching for them, in secret. Standing before three doors, Rye has a decision to make. What door will take him to his brothers in time to rescue them?

Teacher's Notes: 
A fun, fast-paced tale, this is a great introduction to a world where dragons and enemies are more complex than "How to Train Your Dragon", but less violent than some more adult fantasy tales. There is a bit of violence and even death in the book, but it is treated in a respectful manner mindful of the age of readers. I would suggest that teachers or parents consider holding off on this book for students who might not have the maturity to deal with death as portrayed in the story. There is no gore or needless violence, which is what helps it rate so high in my book. Rye learns many lessons in this book, including the true meaning of courage, and when to rely on friends and family for assistance. The end of the book will leave your students wanting to read more!

Overall: 9/10
A perfect introduction to the world of fantasy.

How I Got the Book: Purchased for my personal collection

Suggested Interests: Fantasy, fiction
Book Title: Shiloh
Author: Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
Publish Date: 1991
Publisher: Atheneum Books for Young Readers
Series: Shiloh Trilogy Book #1

Shiloh Book Review | YA Book Reviews by Elements of Elementary
Shiloh by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor

Awards: 1992 Newbery Winner

Suggested Grade: 5th grade

Suggested Format: Small group, class instruction, independent reading

Marty Preston lives in a small house in West Virginia, in a time when cars and TVs are common, but the internet has not yet taken hold. While exploring the hills and dirt roads near his rural home, he finds a beagle who follows him home. Suspecting that the dog, whom he names Shiloh, is being abused by his owner, Marty decides to hide him away and take care of him.
Marty faces many hard decisions - is it ever OK to lie? What do you do when a dog is being abused? Can he save the dog he loves? Do any adults even care?

Teacher's Notes: 
A shorter, easier to read chapter book, this is perfect for guided reading or a class book study.
A few parents expressed discontent with the fact that Marty lies to his elders in the book. In my class, we address this by discussing Marty's feelings of guilt and eventual admission and apologies for his behavior. Several characters in this story own or use guns, but in a realistic and historically accurate context (hunting for food and target practice).

Overall: 10/10
The classic "dog and his boy" book with a generic happy ending.

How I Got the Book: Purchased for my classroom

Suggested Interests: Animals, fiction, realistic fiction