As street corners crowd with students awaiting the bus, and sidewalks become a sea of backpacks, school is in the air.  Returning to school is an exciting and bustling time, reuniting with friends, favorite haunts and beloved teachers. The start of school is also a restless time, full of assessments and orientations, new faces, new places and a perhaps a different routine. To honor the diversity of experience that is a part of the back to school buzz, GBJCL has selected two books for older readers with different views on school.

Spy Factory by Steven Stickler was recently featured by the Blogger “this kid reviews books” and received rave reviews. That is because this detailed and gadget filled spy thriller was written by a real intelligence veteran and is full of nuance, chases, cloaked mystery and of course school scenes.  This book is for the daydreamer whose mind drifts away during the morning commute to imagine his or her school full of dark secrets with only the cunning and well equipped students to sniff out and strike down danger.  This book is the first in a series that is sure to reward the reader with escalating intrigue, tools and contraptions  – and lots of great tips for sleuthing!

Ages 8-11, grade 3-6

For another perspective on school we bring you Emma Jane Lazarus Fell Out of a Tree by Lauren Tarshis. This incredible book was brought to my attention by Anita Silvey, author of  the Children’s Book Almanac.  If you are hunting for a book that might shake the dust off of middle schoo,l look no further. In her debut novel, Tarshis has created one of the greatest oddball characters of the genre. The reader can tell right away that Emma Jean is different from her peers, she has a unique emotional understanding of the world around her,. Iinstead of solving middle school dilemmas like other seventh graders who are busy forming alliances or seeking respite from mean girls in the restroom, Emma-Jean solves things practically. Although Emma-Jean is never diagnosed with autism, she exhibits many of the signs. When seventh grade emotions get the best of her peers, she comes to their rescue with her cool and precise manner. As her own life starts to jump the tracks, Emma-Jean discovers that not all problems can be easily solved with logic and through new connections with her fellow students, she makes a powerful plan for her future. For anyone feeling a bit alien in middle school, Emma-Jean may be a kindred spirit and provide any reader the courage to master these tricky years.

Age12 and up, grade 7 and up

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