The Mustang Book Award reading incentive program encourages students to read professionally
reviewed books that will hopefully spark an interest in reading and inspire them to read more.
Can You Say Catastrophe?
by Laurie Friedman
April Sinclair just wants what any normal thirteen-year-old would want: to disown her parents and obnoxious little sisters; to escape to summer camp ASAP with her two best friends, Billy and Brynn; and to make a good impression on Matt Parker, the hot new boy next door.
Unfortunately, Matt witnesses April's utter humiliation at her birthday party. Then Billy kisses her. Just as April is trying to figure things out, her parents cancel her camp plans in lieu of a family RV trip. A summer of babysitting her sisters and "re-bonding" with her family isn't how she imagined life as a teenager. And it certainly won't help her straighten out her feelings about Billy or Matt. Is there any silver lining to a road trip in The Clunker with her family of misfits?
by Julia Platt Leonard
When thirteen-year-old Oz Keiller stumbles upon a dead body, his life is thrown into a tailspin. His older brother is the prime suspect in the murder, and Oz soon learns that the crime may be tied to the death of his father years earlier, a father who was accused of selling nuclear secrets to rogue governments.
The fate — and livelihood — of his family is hanging by a thread, and it’s up to Oz to try and crack the case, with the help of his best friend, Rusty. It’s a quest that has more twists and turns than the dusty roads of New Mexico, and the answer may be closer to home than Oz ever could have imagined.
Death by Toilet Paper
by Donna Gephart
Benjamin is about to lose a whole lot more than good toilet paper. If he doesn't make tons of money fast by selling candy bars and winning contests — like the Royal-T Bathroom Tissue slogan contest — his family will get kicked out of their apartment.
Even with his flair for clever slogans, will Benjamin be able to win a cash prize large enough to keep a promise he made to his dad before he died? Or will he lose everything that matters to him?
by Tom Rogers
Alex Douglas always wanted to be a hero. But nothing heroic ever happened to Alex. Nothing, that is, until his eleventh birthday. When Alex rescues a stray dog as a birthday gift to himself, he doesn't think his life can get much better. Radar, his new dog, pretty much feels the same way. But this day has bigger things in store for both of them.
This is a story about bullies and heroes. About tragedy and hope. About enemies with two legs and friends with four, and pesky little sisters and cranky old men, and an unexpected lesson in kindness delivered with a slice of pizza. This is Eleven: the journey of a boy turning eleven on 9/11.
by Mike Lupica
Forced to live on his own after his mom dies and her boyfriend abandons him, 12-year-old Jayson does whatever it takes to get by. He will do anything to avoid the foster care system. He manages to get away with his deception until the day he gets caught stealing a new pair of basketball sneakers. Game over. Within a day a social worker places him with a family from the other side of town, the Lawton’s. New home, new school, new teammates. Jayson, at first, is combative, testing the Lawton’s' patience at every turn. He wants out, yet the Lawton’s refuse to take the bait. But not everyone in Jayson's new life is so ready to trust him.
It's on Jayson to believe that he deserves a better life than the one he once had. The ultimate prize if he can? A trip to play in the state finals at Cameron Indoor Stadium, home to the Duke Blue Devils and launching pad to his dream of playing big-time college ball. Getting there will be a journey that reaches beyond the basketball court.
by Tim Green
Twelve-year-old Troy White has a phenomenal gift: He can predict football plays before they even happen. Any position. Any player. Any team. When Troy's single mom gets a job working for the Atlanta Falcons, Troy sees this as an opportunity to show what he can do. But first he has to get to the Falcons — and with tight security and a notoriously mean coach, even his mom's field passes aren't much help.
Then Troy and his best friends devise a plan to get the attention of star linebacker Seth Halloway. With Seth's playing and Troy's genius, the Falcons could be unstoppable if they'll only listen. But if he can’t convince Seth he’s telling the truth, the Falcons’ championship and his mom’s job are at risk.
by Jason Reynolds
Ghost. Lu. Patina. Sunny. Four kids from wildly different backgrounds with personalities that are explosive when they clash. But they are also four kids chosen for an elite middle school track team — a team that could qualify them for the Junior Olympics if they can get their acts together. They all have a lot to lose, but they also have a lot to prove, not only to each other, but to themselves.
Running. That’s all Ghost (real name Castle Cranshaw) has ever known. But Ghost has been running for the wrong reasons. It all started with running away from his father, who, when Ghost was a very little boy, chased him and his mother through their apartment, then down the street, with a loaded gun, aiming to kill. Since then, Ghost has been the one causing problems — and running away from them — until he meets Coach, an ex-Olympic Medalist who sees something in Ghost: crazy natural talent. If Ghost can stay on track, literally and figuratively, he could be the best sprinter in the city. Can Ghost harness his raw talent for speed, or will his past finally catch up to him?
Hide and Seeker
by Daka Hermon
One of our most iconic childhood games receives a creepy twist as it becomes the gateway to a nightmare world. I went up the hill; the hill was muddy, stomped my toe and made it bloody. Should I wash it?
Justin knows that something is wrong with his best friend. Zee went missing for a year. And when he came back, he was... different. Nobody knows what happened to him. At Zee's welcome-home party, Justin and the neighborhood crew play Hide and Seek. But it goes wrong. Very wrong. One by one, everyone who plays the game disappears, pulled into a world of nightmares come to life. Justin and his friends realize this horrible place is where Zee had been trapped. All they can do now is hide from the Seeker.
by K.A. Holt
Timothy is a good kid who did a bad thing. Now he's under house arrest for a whole year. He has to check in weekly with a probation officer and a therapist, keep a journal, and stay out of trouble. But when he must take drastic measures to help his struggling family, staying out of trouble proves more difficult than Timothy ever thought it would be.
Touching, humorous, and always original, House Arrest is a funny book for teens in verse about a good boy's hard-won path to redemption.
The Late Bus
by Rick Jasper
Lamar takes the "late bus" home from school after practice each day. After the bus's beloved driver passes away, Lamar begins to see strange things — demonic figures, preparing to attack the bus. Soon he learns the demons are after Mr. Rumble, the freaky new bus driver.
Can Lamar rescue his fellow passengers, or will Rumble's past come back to destroy them all?
Making Bombs for Hitler
by Marsha Forchuk Skrypuch
Lida thought she was safe. Her neighbors wearing the yellow star were all taken away, but Lida is not Jewish. She will be fine, won't she? But she cannot escape the horrors of World War II. Lida's parents are ripped away from her, and she is separated from her beloved sister, Larissa. The Nazis take Lida to a brutal work camp, where she and other Ukrainian children are forced into backbreaking labor. Starving and terrified, Lida bonds with her fellow prisoners, but none of them know if they'll live to see tomorrow. When Lida and her friends are assigned to make bombs for the German army, Lida cannot stand the thought of helping the enemy. Then, she has an idea. What if she sabotaged the bombs... and the Nazis? Can she do so without getting caught? And if she's freed, will she ever find her sister again?
This pulse-pounding novel of survival, courage, and hope shows us a lesser-known piece of history, and is sure to keep listeners captivated until the last word.
by Christina Diaz Gonzalez
In this exciting and action-packed adventure by an award-winning author, a young girl discovers her secret ancient bloodline. The fate of her family, and the world, may rest in her hands... Cassie Arroyo, an American studying in Rome, has her world ripped apart when someone tries to kill her father, an art history professor at an Italian university. Is she their next target? Cassie sets out to uncover what is happening, only to learn that she is a member of an ancient bloodline that enables her to use the Spear of Destiny: a legendary object that can shape the future. Now running from a secret organization intent on killing those from her bloodline, Cassie must — with the help of some friends — decipher the clues that will lead her to the Spear. Her life — and the fate of the world — depends on her.
Christina Diaz Gonzalez has created a fast-paced thrill-ride of a book, rich with riddles and myth, that young readers will not be able to put down.
One for the Murphys
by Lynda Mullaly Hunt
A moving debut novel about a foster child learning to open her heart to a family's love. Carley uses humor and street smarts to keep her emotional walls high and thick. But the day she becomes a foster child and moves in with the Murphys, she's blindsided. This loving, bustling family shows Carley the stable family life she never thought existed, and she feels like an alien in their cookie-cutter-perfect household. Despite her resistance, the Murphy’s eventually show her what it feels like to belong — until her mother wants her back, and Carley has to decide where and how to live. She's not really a Murphy, but the gifts they've given her have opened up a new future.
by Gordon Korman
Chase's memory just went out the window. Chase doesn't remember falling off the roof. He doesn't remember hitting his head. He doesn't, in fact, remember anything. He wakes up in a hospital room and suddenly has to learn his whole life all over again, starting with his own name. He knows he's Chase. But who is Chase? When he gets back to school, he sees that different kids have very different reactions to his return. Some kids treat him like a hero. Some kids are clearly afraid of him. One girl in particular is so angry with him that she pours her frozen yogurt on his head the first chance she gets. Pretty soon, it's not only a question of who Chase is — it's a question of who he was... and who he's going to be.
From the #1 bestselling author of Swindle and Slacker, Restart is the spectacular story of a kid with a messy past who has to figure out what it means to get a clean start.
by Dan Gemeinhart
Jonathan Grisby is the newest arrival at the Slabhenge Reformatory School for Troubled Boys — an ancient, crumbling fortress of gray stone rising up from the ocean. It is dark, damp, and dismal. And it is just the place Jonathan figures he deserves, because Jonathan has done something terrible. And he's willing to accept whatever punishment he has coming.
Just as he's getting used to his new situation, however, a freak accident leaves the troubled boys of Slabhenge without any adult supervision. Suddenly the kids are free, with an entire island to themselves. But freedom brings unexpected danger. And if Jonathan can't come to terms with the sins of his past and lead his new friends to safety... then every boy on the island is doomed.
Dan Gemeinhart's most gripping novel yet, this is a tale of outcasts at odds and in peril, and a redemption story that shines a light on dark truths to reveal that the strongest prisons of all are the ones we build for ourselves.
by Katherine Arden
After suffering a tragic loss, eleven-year-old Ollie who only finds solace in books discovers a chilling ghost story about a girl named Beth, the two brothers who loved her, and a peculiar deal made with "the smiling man" — a sinister specter who grants your most tightly held wish, but only for the ultimate price. Captivated by the tale, Ollie begins to wonder if the smiling man might be real when she stumbles upon the graves of the very people she's been reading about on a school trip to a nearby farm. Then, later, when her school bus breaks down on the ride home, the strange bus driver tells Ollie and her classmates: "Best get moving. At nightfall they'll come for the rest of you."
Nightfall is, indeed, fast descending when Ollie's previously broken digital wristwatch begins a startling countdown and delivers a terrifying message: RUN. Only Ollie and two of her classmates heed these warnings. As the trio head out into the woods — bordered by a field of scarecrows that seem to be watching them—the bus driver has just one final piece of advice for Ollie and her friends: "Avoid large places. Keep to small." And with that, a deliciously creepy and hair-raising adventure begins.
by Jeff Probst
A family vacation becomes a game of survival!
It was supposed to be a vacation -- and a chance to get to know each other better. But when a massive storm sets in without warning, four kids are shipwrecked alone on a rocky jungle island in the middle of the South Pacific. No adults. No instructions. Nobody to rely on but themselves. Can they make it home alive?
A week ago, the biggest challenge Vanessa, Buzz, Carter, and Jane had was learning to live as a new blended family. Now the four siblings must find a way to work as a team if they're going to make it off the island. They're all in this adventure together — but first they've got to learn to survive one another.
by K.P. Alexander
The latest chilling frightfest from horror master K. R. Alexander, this time centering around a spooky hotel where guests do not check out the way they check in. When Jasmine moves to Gold River after her mother's death, she finds herself powerfully drawn to the Carlisle, an abandoned hotel on the edge of town. It appears in her nightmares and calls to her during the day. It's a local tradition in Gold River for kids to try to stay a night in the Carlisle without being scared away. When Jasmine hears about this, she convinces her friends to join her. How hard can it be to stay up all night in an abandoned old building? Only... the building isn't abandoned. There are plenty of people staying there — dead people. And once you walk into the hotel, they will do everything possible to stop you from checking out.
What Momma Left Me
by Renee Watson
Serenity is good at keeping secrets, and she's got a whole lifetime's worth of them. Her mother is dead, her father is gone, and starting life over at her grandparents' house is strange. Luckily, certain things seem to hold promise: a new friend who makes her feel connected, and a boy who makes her feel seen. But when her brother starts making poor choices, her friend is keeping her own dangerous secret, and her grandparents put all of their trust in a faith that Serenity isn't sure she understands, it is the power of love that will repair her heart and keep her sure of who she is.
by Rodman Philbrick
Daniel Redmayne is fast asleep on the first night of a white-water rafting trip when he's awoken by screams. The dam has failed. The river is surging, and their camp will be under water in a matter of moments. As the shrieking roar of the river rushes closer, the kids scramble to higher ground. They make it; their counselors do not. Now they're on their own, with barely any food or supplies, in the middle of the Montana wilderness.
Do Daniel and his four classmates have what it takes to stay alive until they can get rescued? Alone in the wild, they forge powerful bonds, but develop dangerous disagreements. If nature doesn't break them, they might just destroy each other.