Mustang Books - 6th Grade

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.

book cover: The Benefits of Being an OctopusThe Benefits of Being an Octopus
by Ann Braden

Some people can do their homework. Some get to have crushes on boys. Some people have other things they’ve got to do. Seventh-grader Zoey has her hands full as she takes care of her much younger siblings after school every day while her mom works her shift at the pizza parlor. Not that her mom seems to appreciate it. At least there’s Lenny, her mom’s boyfriend—they all get to live in his nice, clean trailer.

At school, Zoey tries to stay under the radar. Her only friend Fuchsia has her own issues, and since they’re in an entirely different world than the rich kids, it’s best if no one notices them. Zoey thinks how much easier everything would be if she were an octopus: eight arms to do eight things at once. Incredible camouflage ability and steady, unblinking vision. Powerful protective defenses. Unfortunately, she’s not totally invisible, and one of her teachers forces her to join the debate club. Even though Zoey resists participating, debate ultimately leads her to see things in a new way: her mom’s relationship with Lenny, Fuchsia’s situation, and her own place in this town of people who think they’re better than her. Can Zoey find the courage to speak up, even if it means risking the most stable home she’s ever had?

 


book cover: The Big GameThe Big Game
by Tim Green

Danny Owens is football royalty in his small Texas town. And he’s dedicating his seventh-grade season to his Super Bowl–champion father, who recently passed away. Danny promises everyone that, just like his dad, he’ll dominate the big game at the end of the season and earn a spot on the high school varsity team. Then his English teacher catches him cheating on a test. Despite everyone’s protests, she is not going to let Danny get away with it. And even though Danny is given another opportunity to take the test, he knows it won’t matter, for he’s been carrying a secret with him for a long time now. He can’t read. If Danny can’t pass his class, he won’t be eligible to play in the big championship game that could unlock his future. While his resentment rises against the one person willing to help him win off the field, the pressure to succeed begins to weigh heavily on Danny’s shoulders. Danny knows he’s being tested on every level, and to pass, he may very well have to choose a different path from his father’s. In another action-packed and inspiring story, New York Times bestselling author and former NFL player Tim Green encourages readers to fight for their dreams but to live up to their own great expectations.

 


book cover: Can You Say Catastrophe?Can You Say Catastrophe?
by Laurie Friedman

April Sinclair just wants what any normal 13-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?

 


book cover: Cold CaseCold Case
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.

 


book cover: The Dog RayThe Dog Ray
by Linda Coggin

Daisy, age 12, has died in a car accident. She finds herself in the afterworld, which resembles nothing more than a job center. Her soul is being returned to Earth, but not as a human being — she’s returning as a dog. A dog who retains Daisy’s thoughts and pluck and is determined to get back to her parents and to get back home. What she doesn’t expect is that life as a dog named Ray would come with such worries — and moments of jubilation — as she grows to care for others in a whole new way. Told in a compelling first-person voice, Linda Coggin’s incredible novel touches on loyalty and freedom, connection and acceptance, and is sure to stay with readers long after the story is done.

 


book cover: ElevenEleven
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.

 


book cover: Fast BreakFast Break
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 Lawtons. New home, new school, new teammates. Jayson, at first, is combative, testing the Lawtons' patience at every turn. He wants out, yet the Lawtons 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 bigtime college ball. Getting there will be a journey that reaches far beyond the basketball court.

 


book cover: FlippedFlipped
by Wendelin Van Draanen

The first time she saw him, she flipped. The first time he saw her, he ran. That was the second grade, but not much has changed by the seventh. Juli says: "My Bryce. Still walking around with my first kiss." He says: "It's been six years of strategic avoidance and social discomfort." But in the eighth grade, everything gets turned upside down. Just as Bryce is thinking that there's maybe more to Juli than meets the eye, she's thinking that he's not quite all he seemed. This is a classic romantic comedy of errors told in alternating chapters by two fresh, funny voices.

 


book cover: GhostGhost
by Jason Reynolds

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. That is, 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?

 


book cover: The Girl in the Locked RoomThe Girl in the Locked Room
by Mary Downing Hahn

Ghost story master Mary Downing Hahn unrolls the suspenseful, spine-chilling yarn of a girl imprisoned for more than a century, the terrifying events that put her there, and a friendship that crosses the boundary between past and present.

A family moves into an old, abandoned house. Jules's parents love the house, but Jules is frightened and feels a sense of foreboding. When she sees a pale face in an upstairs window, though, she can't stop wondering about the eerie presence on the top floor in a room with a locked door. Could it be someone who lived in the house a century earlier? Her fear replaced by fascination, Jules is determined to make contact with the mysterious figure and help unlock the door. Past and present intersect as she and her ghostly friend discover—and change—the fate of the family who lived in the house all those many years ago.

 


book cover: House ArrestHouse Arrest
by K.A. Holt

Timothy is on probation. It’s a strange word—something that happens to other kids, to delinquents, not to kids like him. And yet, he is under house arrest for the next year. He must check in weekly with a probation officer and a therapist, and keep a journal for an entire year. And mostly, he has to 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. By turns touching and funny, and always original, House Arrest is a middle grade novel in verse about one boy’s path to redemption as he navigates life with a sick brother, a grieving mother, and one tough probation officer.

 


book cover: The Late BusThe Late Bus
by Rick Jasper

When Lamar’s late bus driver, Miss Robin, passes away, Mr. Rumble takes over. A nice guy with a trouble past, Mr. Rumble has some personal demons, that are surfacing, literally. When the bus appears to be possessed, Lamar and his friends look into the driver’s past, they discover many secrets, some even dangerous. Can Lamar figure out what’s wrong with Mr. Rumble? Why does the bus seem to be possessed? A great horror novel for reluctant readers. 

 


book cover: One for the MurphysOne for the Murphys
by Lynda Mullaly Hunt

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 Murphys 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.

 


book cover: Prisoner B-3087Prisoner B-3087
by Alan Gratz

Survive. At any cost. 10 concentration camps. 10 different places where you are starved, tortured, and worked mercilessly. It's something no one could imagine surviving. But it is what Yanek Gruener has to face. As a Jewish boy in 1930s Poland, Yanek is at the mercy of the Nazis who have taken over. Everything he has, and everyone he loves, have been snatched brutally from him. And then Yanek himself is taken prisoner, his arm tattooed with the words Prisoner B-3087. He is forced from one nightmarish concentration camp to another, as World War II rages all around him. He encounters evil he could have never imagined, but also sees surprising glimpses of hope amid the horror. He just barely escapes death, only to confront it again seconds later. Can Yanek make it through the terror without losing his hope, his will, and, most of all, his sense of who he really is inside? Based on an astonishing true story.

 


book cover: RestartRestart
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?

 


book cover: Scar IslandScar Island
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. 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.

 


book cover: Sink or SwimSink or Swim
by Steve Watkins

It's been a month since the bombing of Pearl Harbor. America is officially at war with Germany and Japan, and everyone wants to do their part. In twelve-year-old Colton's case, that means stepping up at home once his older brother, Danny, ships out with the navy. But before Danny leaves for boot camp, the brothers are fishing on the Atlantic Ocean when Danny's boat is capsized by a Nazi U-boat, nearly killing him. When more U-boats start attacking the next day, Colton realizes just how close the enemy is to American shores. With Danny's life in the balance, Colton does the only thing he can think of to help his family and his country: He steals his brother's enlisting papers and joins up instead. Colton's bold decision leads to a deadly journey. Even if he can keep his age a secret and survive boot camp, he'll have to face Hitler's ruthless submarines. But the longer he's on the seas, the less sure Colton is that he and his shipmates can stop such a relentless enemy...

 


book cover: Surrounded by SharksSurrounded by Sharks
by Michael Northrop

He couldn't sleep. That's how it all started. When Davey wakes, just as the sun is rising, he can't wait to slip out of the crammed hotel room he's sharing with his family. Leave it to his parents and kid brother to waste an entire day of vacation sleeping in! Davey heads straight for the beach, book and glasses in hand, not bothering to leave a note. As the sparkling ocean entices him, he decides to test the water, never mind that No Swimming sign. But as the waves pull him farther from shore, Davey finds himself surrounded by water -- and something else, too. Something circling below the surface, watching, waiting. It's just a matter of time...This adventure by New York Times bestselling author Michael Northrop will make readers think twice before taking a dip in the water.

 


book cover: TightTight
by Torrey Maldonado

Lately, Bryan's been feeling it in all kinds of ways. He knows what's tight for him in a good way ― reading comics, drawing superheroes, and hanging out with no drama. But drama's hard to escape where he's from, and that gets him wound up tight. And now Bryan's new friend Mike is challenging him to have fun in ways that are crazy risky. At first, it's a rush following Mike, hopping turnstiles, subway surfing, and getting into all kinds of trouble. But Bryan never feels right acting wrong. So which way will he go when he understands that drama is so not his style? Fortunately his favorite comic heroes shed light on his dilemma, reminding him that he has power ― the power to choose his friends and to stand up for what he believes is right . Torrey Maldonado delivers a fast-paced, insightful, dynamic story. Readers will connect with Bryan's journey as he navigates a tough world with a heartfelt desire for a different life.

 


book cover: Wild RiverWild River
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.

This gripping survival story from the Newbery Honor author of Wildfire is filled with adrenaline-pumping adventure and moments of true bravery.