Masterminds

Hello, dear readers. I bring greetings from the comfort of my home during my gloriously uneventful spring break. So far, I’ve managed to finish a couple of books, watch way too much TV, and see two rather boring movies. (The movies were Batman vs. Superman and Allegiant. Not impressed with either of those films.)

Anyhoo…let’s move on to one of the books I recently finished, Masterminds by Gordon Korman. This book is another of next year’s South Carolina Children’s Book Award nominees, and it’s the first book in a trilogy. (The second book, Criminal Destiny, is already out.)

I feel fairly certain that the Masterminds series will be a hit with most upper elementary and middle grade readers. It’s full of action, suspense, mystery, a bit of science fiction, and a bunch of kids who discover that their entire lives are basically lies. Good stuff.

The town of Serenity is a lot like Mary Poppins–“practically perfect in every way.” There’s no crime, no poverty, no conflict of any kind. Every backyard has a pool, and no one really wants for anything. Sure, it’s kind of boring sometimes, but that’s to be expected in a town of only thirty kids. Serenity is almost completely closed off from the rest of the world, and most of the residents like it that way.

Most of them.

One day, Eli Frieden and his best friend Randy decide to do a little exploring outside of city limits. They don’t make it far before Eli is doubled over with some weird illness and rushed back to town. When Eli wakes up, he learns that Randy is leaving Serenity to live with his grandparents. Eli doesn’t really know what’s going on, but he’s sure that Randy isn’t telling him everything…and he’s right.

Eli begins to do a little digging, and he discovers that Randy wasn’t sent to live with his grandparents. But if that’s true, where did his best friend go? Why the big secret? What exactly is happening in this small, seemingly perfect town?

Eli enlists the help of a few friends in his quest for answers, and they begin to uncover the horrible truth about their town. Nothing is what it seems in Serenity, not even their own families. What does all this mean for Eli and friends? And what is the town’s strange connection to some of the most vicious criminals in the country?

Can a bunch of kids find out what’s going on, escape the lies surrounding them, and find help in the world outside of Serenity? Discover the truth for yourself when you read Masterminds by Gordon Korman!


Masterminds will probably not be a hard sell with my students. I won’t have to say much more than “a group of kids figure out that they’re parents are totally lying to them about their whole lives, the kids have to discover the truth, and deal with the fact that *spoilers* they have a weird connection to a bunch of criminal masterminds.” The books will fly off the shelves.

Most of my students–and many others, I guess–enjoy a good book that depicts kids getting the jump on adults, especially when those adults are doing something kind of horrible. I think readers who like Masterminds may also enjoy the Runaways graphic novels by Brian K. Vaughan and others. These books follow the children of supervillains. Awesome.

If Masterminds sounds like your cup of tea, you can learn more on author Gordon Korman’s website. You can also connect with him on Facebook and Instagram.

Hide and Seek

Warning: Read Capture the Flag by Kate Messner before proceeding. That is all.

Eleven months ago, I finished reading Capture the Flag, the first book in a new series for upper elementary and middle grade readers by Kate Messner. This week, I finally got around to reading the second book in the series, Hide and Seek. This series revolves around several young people who–along with their parents–are tasked with protecting the world’s art and artifacts. They’re known as the Silver Jaguar Society. In Capture the Flag, as the title suggests, the kids–Anna, Henry, and Jose–end up saving the original Star Spangled Banner. In Hide and Seek, though, their adventures take them far away from home and into the rain forests of Costa Rica…

Just when Anna, Henry, and Jose think that things will get just a little back to normal, their world is rocked once again. A priceless Central American artifact–and treasure of the Silver Jaguar Society–has been stolen. The Jaguar Cup was replaced with a fake, and the members of the Society are in a scramble to find out who took the original.

This mad scramble takes the Society–and its most junior members–to Costa Rica. While their parents take off on what appears to be a hot lead, Anna, Henry, and Jose remain behind at a rain forest lodge to await news. But it seems that the real mystery is at the lodge, and, once again, it will be up to a bunch of kids to save an artifact that means so much to so many.

The quest for truth will lead this merry band through a rain forest teeming with danger. But the danger won’t just come from the elements. No, the real danger will come from those who seek to claim the Jaguar Cup for their own.

How can a group of kids battle against crazed adults bent on claiming treasures at any cost? What fears will they have to face in order to come out on top? And will they finally vanquish the enemies of the Silver Jaguar Society? Join Anna, Henry, Jose, and friends in their quest for the truth when you read Hide and Seek by Kate Messner!

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Hide and Seek was a fun, fast read that, like Capture the Flag, I will recommend to my students who enjoy stories like Indiana Jones and National Treasure. It’s a great adventure story that is sure to keep readers, young and old, engrossed until the last page.

I know some of my students will read this book and want to visit the rain forests of Central America. For me, the book had the opposite effect. Actually, all I had to do was read about one snake, and I was done. When you add in a bunch of ants, rickety bridges, and zip lines,it’s game over for me. No one has ever called me an adventurous sort.

According to Kate Messner’s website and a sneak preview at the end of Hide and Seek, we can look forward to at least one more book in this series. Manhunt is slated for a spring 2014 release, and it continues to follow the Silver Jaguar Society in its search for its most notorious enemy, Vincent Goosen. I look forward to it.

Fake Mustache

Sometimes, in my role as an elementary school librarian, I’m introduced to books that are completely ridiculous. Some of them are, shall we say, less than great. Others, like my latest read, make me laugh hysterically and think of ways to highlight this book and recommend it to my students.

I shouldn’t have been surprised that Fake Mustache fell in the latter category. It’s by Tom Angleberger, author of the absolutely fabulous Origami Yoda series. That’s the reason I picked the book up, after all. In Fake Mustache, Angleberger once again uses humor to tell a captivating story that, hopefully, will make kids of all ages think. Yes, readers will have to suspend reality just a bit, but anyone who gives this book a try is in for one crazy, entertaining ride!

Our story begins with two best friends, Lenny and Casper, visiting Sven’s Fair Price Store in their hometown of Hairsprinkle. Lenny purchases a sticky stretchy hand, but Casper…well, Casper, after spending a lot of money on a suit, purchases the Heidelberg Handlebar Number Seven, the world’s greatest fake mustache. This mustache is made from real human hair and has the power to make people do strange things…as Lenny is about to find out.

Shortly after Lenny and Casper make their fateful purchases, a short, suited man with a handlebar mustache begins robbing banks. Lenny is sure that Casper is the culprit, but no one believes him. Even when he tips off the police as to the identity of the robber, no one takes him seriously…no one except Casper–now known as the powerful, rich, and enigmatic Fako Mustacho–who makes Lenny into Public Enemy Number One.

Fako Mustacho seems to have everybody fooled. Bands of people are going around the city doing his bidding. Only a few people are immune to the power of the Heidelberg Handlebar Number Seven. Lenny is one of them, and, surprisingly, one of the others is Jodie O’Rodeo, former teen cowgirl queen. These two kids join forces to put a stop to Fako Mustacho’s shenanigans. But how can they battle the brainwashing power of the Mustache?

Join Lenny and Jodie as they try to figure out how to stop a criminal mastermind from taking over the country. What dangers will they have to face? Will anyone ever believe them? Find out for yourself when you read Fake Mustache by Tom Angleberger!

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If you’re looking for a hilarious, totally unbelievable book to recommend to kids in upper elementary or middle grades, Fake Mustache is a great choice. It could even open up some discussions with older kids on why people choose the leaders they do. (This is something especially timely right now. Maybe some of our Congressmen are controlling people with fake mustaches. Makes just as much sense as anything else.)

Pair Fake Mustache with I Am a Genius of Unspeakable Evil, and I Want to Be Your Class President for readers who are interested in just how much other kids can get away with. Both books will leave them laughing uncontrollably.

If you’re interested in Fake Mustache and other books by Tom Angleberger, check out http://origamiyoda.wordpress.com/. Have fun!

Legend

It’s my 300th post here on Knight Reader!!!  Let’s all pause to do the dance of joy before I get to my latest read…

Okay, now that we’ve gotten that out of our systems, we can move on to the real reason for this post.  I just finished a truly outstanding book that will appeal to fans of The Hunger Games, Divergent by Veronica Roth, Ally Condie’s Matched series, and other notable dystopian literature.  The book is Legend by Marie Lu.  I finally picked this up a few days ago after several librarians and bloggers recommended it, and I was hooked from the first page. 

Legend takes place in what I can only assume is the not-too-distant future, in an America that is divided and engaged in a civil war.  Two young people are being drawn together by death, secrets, and lies…and neither of them knows who to trust.

Day is the most wanted person in the Republic of America (formerly known as the west coast of the United States). He’s considered a traitor and a threat to the government…and he’s fifteen. Day knows that the Republic is keeping secrets from the people, and he’s doing his best to thwart their efforts. He’s also trying to keep his family safe from the plagues that kill more and more people every year.

June is a fifteen-year-old on the brink of becoming one of the youngest military officers in history.  She is a prodigy committed to her country, her duty, and her brother, Metias.  She has a few issues with following rules, but she is secure in what her future holds…until one night changes everything.

When June’s brother is murdered and the blame falls on Day, the lives of these two young people become entangled.  June goes on the hunt for her brother’s killer, and Day is still searching for a way to protect his family.  Eventually, their paths cross.  Neither is prepared for the immediate chemistry between them.  And neither is prepared for the fallout when their true identities come to light.

June thought she knew everything about Day, her brother’s death, and the Republic, but her time with Day, things she witnesses, and cryptic messages from her brother are causing her to question everything she knows.  What is the Republic’s true agenda, and can she and Day figure things out before one (or both) of them meet the same fate as Metias?  Read Legend by Marie Lu to discover how far a corrupt government will go to make sure its secrets stay secret.

I cannot say enough about Legend.  I am shocked that this is Marie Lu’s first novel.  It is truly amazing, and it definitely gives paranoid people like me something to worry think about.  In my opinion, this would be a great read for anyone interested in government and how much power one should be allowed to have over its people.  (When I was reading, I kept seeing images of Hitler’s rise to power.  It’s not that much of a stretch to think that it could happen again.)

This wonderful story has already been optioned for a movie (like so many great young adult books) by CBS Films, and director Jonathan Levine is already attached to the project.  If done right, Legend will be amazing on the big screen.  Marie Lu’s writing makes Legend a “movie in my mind,” so I look forward to seeing if Hollywood’s version lives up to the one in my imagination.  (This rarely happens, but a girl can dream.)

Legend is gripping, fast-paced, and full of suspense and intrigue.  It is fairly violent (as is most dystopian literature), so keep that in mind when recommending it to young readers.  This is a book, like The Hunger Games, that will appeal to male and female readers, and it will not limit itself to young adult fans. 

If you’d like more information on this amazing first book in the Legend series (the second is due out sometime this year) and author Marie Lu, visit http://marielu.org/index.html and http://www.legendtheseries.com/.  I hope you enjoy this book as much as I did!