These books pull their readers in right from the start and keep them turning pages with action, suspense, surprise and humor. Interestingly enough, most of these authors have training as screenwriters, and they know how to craft a story that will appeal to kids used to today’s fast-paced movies.
1. Dark Life by Kat Falls
After the seas rose and life got crowded on dry land, an intrepid group of colonists settled the sea floor. Fifteen-year-old Ty wants more than anything to have some undersea land of his own. But pirates are threatening to destroy all he’s worked for. Can a tough new girl from the topside, Gemma, be the key to helping his family stay on their claim?
Author Kat Falls deftly creates her undersea world, populates it with interesting characters, and throws in lots of suspense and surprises. Reading level 4th & 5th grade.
Author Kat Falls started the story as an exercise in combining all the things her son liked to read about: westerns, the ocean, and superpowers. The result is an inventive world and fast-paced drama that will appeal to kids with all sorts of interests. Read more about the author and the book here: http://www.scholastic.com/darklife/
2. The Hunger Games Trilogy by Suzanne Collins (The Hunger Games, Catching Fire, Mockingjay)
In this futuristic world, North America is now called Panem, a group of 12 Districts subservient to a pampered and manipulative Capitol Each year, two teenage tributes from each district are chosen by lottery and forced to participate in the Hunger Games. The tributes are placed in an arena and required to fight to the death until only one emerges as victor. The whole thing is televised throughout the country as entertainment. On the day of the lottery, Katniss Everdeen’s fragile 12-year-old sister, Prim, is chosen as one of the tributes. Katniss cannot bear to see her sister hurt, and volunteers to go in her place. She’s tough, she’s smart, and she has killer hunting skills. But will that be enough?
The whole concept is enough to make you shudder, but Collins pulls it off magnificently, creating a compelling group of characters, and edge-of-your-seat plot, and thought-provoking plot twists. As children’s book laureate, Jon Scieszka puts it, ”
Best. Children’s book. Ever.”
Reading level 5th & 8th grades
This trilogy reigns as the most gripping page-turner in recent memory, with millions of sales worldwide. Author Suzanne Collins started her career writing for children’s television, but don’t let her work on Clifford’s Puppy Days fool you: this is one intense, jarring and suspenseful novel. Collins’ father was a military historian, and these dystopian novels explore the nature and consequences of war. Be aware that your child will need to be able to handle descriptions of violence that are vivid, but not overly drawn out. My 7th grade daughter was fine with the book, but some may not be. Read about Collins here: http://www.suzannecollinsbooks.com/
3. The Five Ancestors Series by Jeff Stone (Tiger, Monkey, Snake, Crane, Eagle, Mouse, Dragon)
Stone hooks readers in from the very beginning and spins a tale of kung fu monks (each of whom specializes in a certain type of kung fu, hence the Tiger, Monkey, Snake, etc. of the titles) on a journey to discover themselves, their links to each other, and their destiny. When the story opens, five fighting monks are crammed together in an earthen jar, and not too comfortable. The one on the bottom is getting squished, and one of them has stinky feet. Right away, Stone establishes the humor in the book, but also the narrative tension: the monks are hiding from something.
It turns out that the renegade monk, Ying, has attacked the temple with an army, brandishing a new weapon: guns. Before the grandmaster is slain, he tells the five young monks that they must discover their connections to each other, and they must change the heart of the traitor, Ying, and of the emperor. It’s quite a tall order for the characters, all between the ages 12 and 17. As they proceed with their adventures throughout the seven books, the kung-fu action sequences and twists and turns in the plot keep young readers turning pages.
Reading level: 5th-7th grade
If your reader can’t get enough of this story, Random House has set up a website with history, activities, and news. http://www.randomhouse.com/kids/fiveancestors/
4. The Island Trilogy by Gordon Korman (Shipwreck, Survival, Escape)
Six kids have gotten into various sorts of trouble at home and have been sent to sea with a program called Charting a New Course to learn teamwork and discipline. But then a storm blows up, someone makes a bad decision, the captain is washed overboard and the ship seems to be sinking…and we have barely begun with all the adventures, hardships and suspense this group will be facing. Not only is this series packed with excitement, but is also funny as well as engaging–as the castaways work to think a way out of their predicament.
4th & 5th grade reading level
5. The Everest Trilogy by Gordon Korman (The Contest, The Climb, The Summit)
Four kids are vying to be the youngest ever to climb Everest. Completing the climb is hard enough, but competition, treachery, and disaster make for a thrilling adventure.
4th & 5th grade reading level
6. The Dive Trilogy by Gordon Korman (The Discovery, The Deep, The Danger)
Four kids have been chosen to explore the sea, even though they’re not the best divers around. While they deal with killer sharks, they find out that those around them are hiding a mysterious and valuable secret.
4th & 5th grade reading level
The series of events that led him to publish his first book when he was 14 is a story in itself. Read more about how having a track and field coach for his English teacher was the best thing that ever happened to him. http://www2.scholastic.com/browse/contributor.jsp?id=1578