Category Archives: middle school readers

Fiction books set in Kentucky

Here’s a list of juvenile and young adult fiction books that are set in or feature our beautiful state of Kentucky:

Kentucky Komodo Dragons by Johnathan Rand (book # 27 in the American Chillers series) 

While hiking in the forest in Paducah, Kentucky, Jason Bradford and his sister, Jillian, spot a lizard in a tree.  However, this is a species of lizard they’ve never seen before.  It’s nearly two feet long–and vicious.

Something to Sing About by C.C. Payne

Ten-year-old Jamie Jo’s fear of bees keeps her inside most of the time, but a series of events that begins when her mother is excluded from the church choir brings about many changes, including new friendships and greater trust in God.

Gabriel’s Horses by Alison Hart (Racing to Freedom trilogy, book #1)

In Kentucky, during the Civil War, the twelve-year-old slave Gabriel, contends with a cruel new horse trainer and skirmishes with Confederate soldiers as he pursues his dream of becoming a jockey.

Underground by Jean Ferris 

In 1839, Charlotte Brown is sold north to Kentucky, where she becomes a maid at Mammoth Cave Hotel, falls in love with one of the tour guides there, and gets involved in the Underground Railroad.

Midnight in Lonesome Hollow by Kathleen Ernst (An American Girl Mystery: Kit)

While staying with her Aunt Millie in the Appalachian Mountains of Kentucky in the summer of 1934, Kit tries to discover who is sabotaging a visiting folklore researcher.

Happy Birthday, Kit! by Valerie Tripp (An American Girl book)

On a visit to Cincinnati from rural Kentucky during the Great Depression, Aunt Millie impresses Kit with her money-saving cleverness. Includes information on life in America during the Great Depression.

Chasing Redbird by Sharon Creech 

Thirteen-year-old Zinnia Taylor uncovers family secrets and self truths while clearing a mysterious settler trail that begins on her family’s farm in Kentucky.

Spitting Image by Shutta Crum

In the small town of Baylor, Kentucky, twelve-year-old Jessie K. Bovey and her friends confront some of life’s questions during their summer vacation in the late 1960s.

Flying Free by Sharon Dennis Wyeth (My America series)

In 1858, nine-year-old Corey Birdsong and his family, fugitive slaves from Kentucky, build a new life in Amherstburg, Canada, while still hoping to help those they left behind.

The Beatinest Boy by Jesse Stuart

A hard-working, adventuresome boy in Appalachian Kentucky tries various ways to earn money to buy his grandmother a Christmas present.

Special Mention: 

In John Green’s An Abundance of Katherines, the main character and his friend pull into a rest stop near Paducah, Kentucky!

Join us this Saturday for the book club!


Our youth book club will begin Saturday, Sept. 17 at 1 pm. We will meet 1 Saturday a month at 1 pm for 1 hour to read & discuss recent young adult books. Refreshments will be provided as well!

Here is the book lineup:

Sept. 17 & Oct. 15, 2011- Incarceron by Catherine Fisher (to be made into a movie for a 2013 release date!)

Oct. 15 & Nov. 12,  2011 – The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick (this Caldecott winner was made into a movie by Martin Scorsese, to be released Nov. 23, 2011)

Jan. 7 & Feb. 4, 2012 – Moon Over Manifest by Clare Vanderpool (2011 Newbery Award Winner)

Feb 4. & Mar. 3, 2012 – The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins (the first movie in this exciting trilogy will be released Mar. 23, 2012)

March & April, 2012 – TBA (I’ll let YOU decide!)

Click here to view more information on each book, including AR level.

Hope to see you there!

More information on the books for our book club!

Our youth book club begins Sept. 17 at 1 pm. Click here for the original post. I wanted to describe the books a bit more, including Accelerated Reader information.


The first book we’ll be reading is Incarceron by Catherine Fisher. This is book 1 in the series (the 2nd book, Sapphique, is also available) and will be released as a movie in 2013. Taylor Lautner (Jacob from the Twilight movies) will be playing main character Finn.

Incarceron is a science fiction, dystopian novel that has been praised by critics, including School Library Journal, Publishers Weekly and Kirkus Reviews. Fans of The Hunger Games, Matched and The Maze Runner will enjoy this action-packed and suspenseful read.

Here’s the synopsis from the publisher:

Incarceron is a prison so vast that it contains not only cells and corridors, but metal forests, dilapidated cities, and wilderness. It has been sealed for centuries, and only one man has ever escaped. Finn has always been a prisoner here. Although he has no memory of his childhood, he is sure he came from Outside. His link to the Outside, his chance to break free, is Claudia, the warden’s daughter, herself determined to escape an arranged marriage. They are up against impossible odds, but one thing looms above all: Incarceron itself is alive…

Accelerated Reader lists Incarceron as a 4.6 reading level for grades 6 and up, and is worth 14.0 points.


The next book we’ll be reading is The Invention of Hugo Cabret: A Novel in Words and Pictures by Brian Selznick, which won the Caldecott Medal in 2008. This book will also be released as a movie, entitled Hugo and directed by Martin Scorsese. It is due in theaters Nov. 23, 2011.

The New York Times cited The Invention of Hugo Cabret as “wonderful” and that “the result is a captivating work of fiction that young readers with a taste for complex plots and a touch of magic, think Harry H., not Harry P., can love.”

Here’s the synposis:

Orphan Hugo Cabret lives in a wall. His secret home is etched out in the crevices of a busy Paris train station. Part-time clock keeper, part-time thief, he leads a life of quiet routine until he gets involved with an eccentric, bookish young girl and an angry old man who runs a toy booth in the station. The Invention of Hugo Cabret unfolds its cryptic, magical story in a format that blends elements of picture book, novel, graphic novel, and film. Caldecott Honor-winning author-illustrator Brian Selznick has fashioned an intricate puzzle story that binds the reader like a mesmerist’s spell.

AR lists Hugo Cabret as a level 5.1 for middle grades (4-8), and is worth 4.0 points.


In January and February we will be reading the winner of the 2011 Newbery Medal, Moon Over Manifest by Clare Vanderpool. This richly detailed novel is both a coming-of-age story and enjoyable historical fiction read.

The Kirkus Starred Review:

“When 12-year-old Abilene jumps off the train in Manifest, Kan., in 1936 to stay with her father’s boyhood friend, little does she know her sojourn will take her back, via mesmerizing tales, newspaper clippings, curious mementoes and World War I letters, to Manifest as it was in 1918—and into the life of the mysterious boy nicknamed Jinx. This young con man effected extraordinary change in the lives of the mostly immigrant residents and the fortunes of the mining town in that year. Abilene and readers get so caught up in the past in this richly detailed, splendidly written novel that they easily make the transition between the Depression and WWI eras and long to learn more about the town that once was. Readers will love guessing how Abilene’s dad fits into all the stories and townspeople’s memories. The absolute necessity of story as a way to redemption and healing past wounds is at the heart of this beautiful debut, and readers will cherish every word up to the heartbreaking yet hopeful and deeply gratifying ending.”


AR lists Moon Over Manifest at level 5.3 for middle grades (4-8) and 12.0 points.


To celebrate the March 2012 release of The Hunger Games movie, we will be reading the book in February and March. If you are not already familiar with this exciting trilogy, come join the craze! And for those who’ve already read the series, meet with us to discuss the book and what you’re excited to see on the big screen.

AR cites The Hunger Games as a 5.3 level for middle grades plus (grades 6 and up) and is worth 15.0 points.


The book for the Spring 2012 sessions has not yet been determined. I’d like to let YOU decide, so let me know your picks! Please contact me, Ashley, at 270-442-2510 ext. 122 or if you have any questions or comments. I look forward to seeing you Sept. 17!




Book Club begins September 17!


Our youth book club will begin Saturday, Sept. 17 at 1 pm. We will meet 1 Saturday a month at 1 pm for 1 hour to read & discuss recent young adult books. Refreshments will be provided as well!

Here is the book lineup:

Sept. 17 & Oct. 15, 2011- Incarceron by Catherine Fisher (to be made into a movie for a 2013 release date!)

Oct. 15 & Nov. 12,  2011 – The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick (this Caldecott winner was made into a movie by Martin Scorsese, to be released Nov. 23, 2011)

Jan. 7 & Feb. 4, 2012 – Moon Over Manifest by Clare Vanderpool (2011 Newbery Award Winner)

Feb 4. & Mar. 3, 2012 – The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins (the first movie in this exciting trilogy will be released Mar. 23, 2012)

March & April, 2012 – TBA (I’ll let YOU decide!)

I hope to see you next month, on Sept. 17 at 1 pm! 

In case you missed them – recent posts

Hunger Games movie casting news!

The books that almost won (a spotlight on the Newbery honor books)

The “other” book awards (award winning books that didn’t win the Newbery or Caldecott)

Mystery? Adventure? International art scandal? Yes, please! (Blue Balliett’s smart mystery series for middle readers)

Shhh…The Name of This Book is Secret (another fun series for ages 9-12 by Pseudonymous Bosch)

Love history? Read historical fiction! (a list of historical fiction for middle school and high school readers)

The books that almost won

While we’re on the topic of award winning books, let’s look at some of the Newbery honor books over the years. The Newbery Award is awarded annually by the American Library Association for the most distinguished American children’s book published the previous year and has been around since 1922.

Each year, only 1 book gets the gold (or bronze, in this case) medal. And each year  around 2 – 7 books get the “honor” title. Let’s pay tribute to those honor books that almost won “the most distinguished  American children’s book award.”

2011 Honor Books:

Turtle in Paradise by Jennifer L. Holm (Don’t let the girly cover fool you – boys will love this book, too!)

Heart of a Samurai by Margi Preus

Dark Emperor and Other Poems of the Night by Joyce Sidman

One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia


2010 Honor Books:

Claudette Colvin: Twice Toward Justice  by Phillip Hoose

The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate  by Jacqueline Kelly

Where the Mountain Meets the Moon  by Grace Lin

The Mostly True Adventures of Homer P. Figg  by Rodman Philbrick


2009 Honor Books:

The Underneath  by Kathi Appelt, illus. by David Small

The Surrender Tree: Poems of Cuba’s Struggle for Freedom by Margarita Engle

Savvy by Ingrid Law

After Tupac & D Foster by Jacqueline Woodson


2008 Honor Books:

Elijah of Buxton by Christopher Paul Curtis

The Wednesday Wars by Gary D. Schmidt

Feathers by Jacqueline Woodson


2007 Honor Books:

Penny from Heaven  by  Jennifer L. Holm

Hattie Big Sky  by  Kirby Larson

Rules  by  Cynthia Lord


2006 Honor Books:

Whittington  by  Alan Armstrong, illustrated by S.D. Schindler

Hitler Youth: Growing Up in Hitler’s Shadow by  Susan Campbell Bartoletti

Princess Academy  by  Shannon Hale

Show Way by Jacqueline Woodson


2005 Honor Books:

Al Capone Does My Shirts by  Gennifer Choldenko

The Voice that Challenged a Nation: Marian Anderson and the Struggle for Equal Rights”  by Russell Freedman

Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy by Gary D. Schmidt


To find the complete list of Newbery Honor Books (and all the winners), click here.

The “other” book awards

The Newbery and Caldecott Awards are the most well known and highly regarded honors for children’s books. However, each year many other books are given awards. Here’s just a few of the most recent winners (and runners up!):

Michael L. Printz Award

This an award for a book that exemplifies literary excellence in young adult literature.

2011 Winner

Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi 

In a futuristic world, teenaged Nailer scavenges copper wiring from grounded oil tankers for a living, but when he finds a beached clipper ship with a girl in the wreckage, he has to decide if he should strip the ship for its wealth or rescue the girl.

2011 Honor Books –

Nothing by Janne Teller

Please Ignore Vera Dietz by A.S. King

Revolver by Marcus Sedgwick

Stolen by Lucy Christopher


Schneider Family Book Award

This award honors an author or illustrator for a book that embodies an artistic expression of the disability experience for child and adolescent audiences.

2011 Middle School Winner

After Ever After by Jordan Sonnenblick

Although Jeff and Tad, encouraged by a new friend, Lindsey, make a deal to help one another overcome aftereffects of their cancer treatments in preparation for eighth-grade graduation, Jeff still craves advice from his older brother Stephen, who is studying drums in Africa.


Theodor Seuss Geisel Award

This award, established in 2004, is given annually (beginning in 2006) to the author(s) and illustrator(s) of the most distinguished contribution to the body of American children’s literature known as beginning reader books published in the United States during the preceding year.

2011 Winner –

Bink and Gollie by Kate DiCamillo and Alison McGhee, illustrated by Tony Fucile

Two roller-skating best friends–one tiny, one tall–share three comical adventures involving outrageously bright socks, an impromptu trek to the Andes, and a most unlikely marvelous companion.

2011 Honors –

Ling and Ting: Not Exactly the Same! written and illustrated by Grace Lin

We Are in a Book! written and illustrated by Mo Willems

And don’t forget to vote for your favorite book for children’s book week! Vote here!

Mystery? Adventure? International art scandal? Yes, please!

If you enjoy classics like E.L. Konigsburg’s From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler or Ellen Raskin’s The Westing Game, you’ll love Blue Balliett’s Chasing Vermeer, book one in this fast-paced and suspenseful three-part series.

Join eleven-year-olds Petra and Calder as they use their brains to track down who stole a famous Vermeer painting. Puzzles and codes abound in this exciting mystery, and illustrations by Brett Helquist (who illustrated the Lemony Snicket books) liven up the story as well.

Balliett’s publisher Scholastic has a fun, interactive website that includes clues and games related to the books. Check it out here! And don’t forget to pick up your copy (or the whole series!) today at your library!

Book 1: Chasing Vermeer  

Book 2: The Wright 3 

Book 3: The Calder Game 

Ages 9-12; grades 5-8