• Independent Books to Read for 8-12 Year Old - Great middle grade novels
    book lists,  elementary,  middle grades

    10 Independent Reads for 8-12 Year Olds

    My fourth grader loves to read but goes through spurts where she reads a ton and then weeks where she doesn’t read much. I pretty much do the same so I totally understand.

    Lately she has been reading a ton of books so I thought I would share some of her recent favorites. She can read quite above her grade level (as you’ll see at the end of this list) but she also likes to pick up some age appropriate books to breeze through as well.

    Many of the books on this list are the first books in a series, in those cases my daughter has either continued on with the series and enjoyed the books or intends to continue with the series soon.

    I’m sure I’ll have another list of what she’s been reading lately at the rate she is flying through books these days. If you are looking for more good recommendations for middle grade books I have lots here.

     

    Independent Books to Read for 8-12 Year Old - Great middle grade novels

     

    INDEPENDENT READS FOR 8-12 YEAR OLDS

     

    I created a reading challenge for myself this year and my daughter decided she wanted to participate, this was her choice for a book with a color in the title.

    Ruby Holler

    Brother and sister Dallas and Florida are the “trouble twins.” In their short thirteen years, they’ve passed through countless foster homes, only to return to their dreary orphanage, Boxton Creek Home.

    Run by the Trepids, a greedy and strict couple, Boxton Creek seems impossible to escape. When Mr. Trepid informs the twins that they’ll be helping old Tiller and Sairy Morey go on separate adventures, Dallas and Florida are suspicious.

    As the twins adjust to the natural beauty of the outdoors, help the Tillers prepare for their adventures, and foil a robbery, their ultimate search for freedom leads them home to Ruby Holler.

     

    The Dark Hills Divide

    Inquisitive twelve-year-old Alexa Daley is spending another summer in the walled town of Bridewell. This year, she is set on solving the mystery of what lies beyond the walls. Legend says the walls were built to keep out an unnamed evil that lurks in the forests and The Dark Hills. But what exactly is it that the townspeople are so afraid of? As Alexa begins to unravel the truth, pushing beyond the protective barrier she’s lived behind all her life, she discovers a strange and ancient enchantment — and exposes a danger that could destroy everything she holds dear.

     

    If you haven’t had a chance to see a physical copy of Brian Selznick’s books, you need to. They are a mix of a novel and an illustrated book, it’s like nothing I’ve ever seen before.

    The Invention of Hugo Cabret

    Orphan, clock keeper, and thief, Hugo lives in the walls of a busy Paris train station, where his survival depends on secrets and anonymity. But when his world suddenly interlocks with an eccentric, bookish girl and a bitter old man who runs a toy booth in the station, Hugo’s undercover life, and his most precious secret, are put in jeopardy. A cryptic drawing, a treasured notebook, a stolen key, a mechanical man, and a hidden message from Hugo’s dead father form the backbone of this intricate, tender, and spellbinding mystery.

     

    Matilda

    Matilda is a sweet, exceptional young girl, but her parents think she’s just a nuisance. She expects school to be different but there she has to face Miss Trunchbull, a kid-hating terror of a headmistress. When Matilda is attacked by the Trunchbull she suddenly discovers she has a remarkable power with which to fight back. It’ll take a superhuman genius to give Miss Trunchbull what she deserves and Matilda may be just the one to do it!

     

    Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

    Willy Wonka’s famous chocolate factory is opening at last! But only five lucky children will be allowed inside. And the winners are: Augustus Gloop, an enormously fat boy whose hobby is eating; Veruca Salt, a spoiled-rotten brat whose parents are wrapped around her little finger; Violet Beauregarde, a dim-witted gum-chewer with the fastest jaws around; Mike Teavee, a toy pistol-toting gangster-in-training who is obsessed with television; and Charlie Bucket, Our Hero, a boy who is honest and kind, brave and true, and good and ready for the wildest time of his life!

     

    Half Magic

    It all begins with a strange coin on a sun-warmed sidewalk. Jane finds the coin, and because she and her siblings are having the worst, most dreadfully boring summer ever, she idly wishes something exciting would happen. And something does: Her wish is granted. Or not quite. Only half of her wish comes true. It turns out the coin grants wishes—but only by half, so that you must wish for twice as much as you want. Wishing for two times some things is a cinch, but other doubled wishes only cause twice as much trouble. What is half of twice a talking cat? Or to be half-again twice not-here? And how do you double your most heartfelt wish, the one you care about so much it has to be perfect?

     

    Little House in the Big Woods

    Little House in the Big Woods takes place in 1871 and introduces us to four-year-old Laura, who lives in a log cabin on the edge of the Big Woods of Wisconsin. She shares the cabin with her Pa, her Ma, her sisters Mary and Carrie, and their lovable dog, Jack.

    Pioneer life isn’t easy for the Ingalls family, since they must grow or catch all their own food as they get ready for the cold winter. But they make the best of every tough situation. They celebrate Christmas with homemade toys and treats, do their spring planting, bring in the harvest in the fall, and make their first trip into town. And every night, safe and warm in their little house, the sound of Pa’s fiddle lulls Laura and her sisters into sleep.

     

    This has been one of our family favorite audiobooks to date, my daughter loved it so much she has already re-listened to it and wants to read the physical copy as well since I told her about the hilarious footnotes they have.

    On The Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness

    Once, in a cottage above the cliffs on the Dark Sea of Darkness, there lived three children and their trusty dog, Nugget.

    Janner Igiby, his brother, Tink, and their disabled sister, Leeli, are gifted children as all children are, loved well by a noble mother and ex-pirate grandfather. But they will need all their gifts and all that they love to survive the evil pursuit of the venomous Fangs of Dang, who have crossed the dark sea to rule the land with malice. The Igibys hold the secret to the lost legend and jewels of good King Wingfeather of the Shining Isle of Anniera.

     

    A great middle grade fantasy book that reminds me a bit of Alice in Wonderland crossed with Greenglass House.

    Nevermoor

    Morrigan Crow is cursed. Having been born on Eventide, the unluckiest day for any child to be born, she’s blamed for all local misfortunes, from hailstorms to heart attacks–and, worst of all, the curse means that Morrigan is doomed to die at midnight on her eleventh birthday.
     
    But as Morrigan awaits her fate, a strange and remarkable man named Jupiter North appears. Chased by black-smoke hounds and shadowy hunters on horseback, he whisks her away into the safety of a secret, magical city called Nevermoor.
     
    It’s then that Morrigan discovers Jupiter has chosen her to contend for a place in the city’s most prestigious organization: the Wundrous Society. In order to join, she must compete in four difficult and dangerous trials against hundreds of other children, each with an extraordinary talent that sets them apart–an extraordinary talent that Morrigan insists she does not have. To stay in the safety of Nevermoor for good, Morrigan will need to find a way to pass the tests–or she’ll have to leave the city to confront her deadly fate.

     

    It took her a few months but she actually finished this book! She plans to start The Two Towers next month.

    The Fellowship of the Ring

    One Ring to rule them all, One Ring to find them, One Ring to bring them all and in the darkeness bind them

    In ancient times the Rings of Power were crafted by the Elven-smiths, and Sauron, The Dark Lord, forged the One Ring, filling it with his own power so that he could rule all others. But the One Ring was taken from him, and though he sought it throughout Middle-earth, it remained lost to him. After many ages it fell into the hands of Bilbo Baggins, as told in The Hobbit.

    In a sleepy village in the Shire, young Frodo Baggins finds himself faced with an immense task, as his elderly cousin Bilbo entrusts the Ring to his care. Frodo must leave his home and make a perilous journey across Middle-earth to the Cracks of Doom, there to destroy the Ring and foil the Dark Lord in his evil purpose.

  • Middle Grade Winter Books - great novels to read in the winter for middle grades 5-8
    book lists,  middle grades

    15+ Middle Grade Books to Read in the Winter

    This last year I have gotten more into seasonal reading. Last year I shared monthly themed picture book lists here on the blog and this year I wanted to share seasonal chapter book lists.

    Most of the books on these lists will be what are considered “middle grade” reads which are generally for 8-12 year olds. My daughter is currently nine and she either has read or I would be okay with her reading all the books on this list. That being said, there can be a big range in ability and maturity when it comes to putting an age range from 8-12 so use your own discretion.

    Also, let me just say, I’m in my 30’s and have read most of the books on this list (the ones I haven’t read yet I hope to get to this year) so I’m not saying people over 12 won’t like the books. Usually when a book is classified as “middle grade” it means the main character is somewhere around the ages of 10-13 (give or take), it doesn’t mean that if you are not those ages you won’t like the book.

    When it comes to books that I would consider a good winter read they generally either take place in the winter or have some elements that I think would make them good to read curled up with a blanket. There are quite a few fantasy books on this list because for some reason fall and winter just seem like good times to read fantasy to me.

     

    Middle Grade Winter Books - great novels to read in the winter for middle grades 5-8

     

    BEST MIDDLE GRADE CHAPTER BOOKS TO READ IN THE WINTER

    With all the references to the weather and drinking hot chocolate this is a great book to curl up with in the winter.

    Greenglass House

    It’s wintertime at Greenglass House. The creaky smuggler’s inn is always quiet during this season, and twelve-year-old Milo, the innkeepers’ adopted son, plans to spend his holidays relaxing. But on the first icy night of vacation, out of nowhere, the guest bell rings. Then rings again. And again. Soon Milo’s home is bursting with odd, secretive guests, each one bearing a strange story that is somehow connected to the rambling old house. As objects go missing and tempers flare, Milo and Meddy, the cook’s daughter, must decipher clues and untangle the web of deepening mysteries to discover the truth about Greenglass House—and themselves.

     

    I loved this book and think it would make for an excellent winter read.

    A Night Divided

    With the rise of the Berlin Wall, Gerta finds her family suddenly divided. She, her mother, and her brother Fritz live on the eastern side, controlled by the Soviets. Her father and middle brother, who had gone west in search of work, cannot return home. Gerta knows it is dangerous to watch the wall, yet she can’t help herself. She sees the East German soldiers with their guns trained on their own citizens; she, her family, her neighbors and friends are prisoners in their own city.

    But one day on her way to school, Gerta spots her father on a viewing platform on the western side, pantomiming a peculiar dance. Gerta concludes that her father wants her and Fritz to tunnel beneath the wall, out of East Berlin. However, if they are caught, the consequences will be deadly. No one can be trusted. Will Gerta and her family find their way to freedom?

     

    We listened to this book as a family for the first time this winter and it was such a great listen. It has Penderwick vibes but while those are definitely books to read in the summer this is a winter one.

    The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street

    The Vanderbeekers have always lived in the brownstone on 141st Street. It’s practically another member of the family. So when their reclusive, curmudgeonly landlord decides not to renew their lease, the five siblings have eleven days to do whatever it takes to stay in their beloved home and convince the dreaded Beiderman just how wonderful they are. And all is fair in love and war when it comes to keeping their home. 

     

    This book sounds great and the synopsis gives me Greenglass House vibes, I can’t wait to read it!

    Winterhouse

    Orphan Elizabeth Somers’s malevolent aunt and uncle ship her off to the ominous Winterhouse Hotel, owned by the peculiar Norbridge Falls. Upon arrival, Elizabeth quickly discovers that Winterhouse has many charms―most notably its massive library. It’s not long before she locates a magical book of puzzles that will unlock a mystery involving Norbridge and his sinister family. But the deeper she delves into the hotel’s secrets, the more Elizabeth starts to realize that she is somehow connected to Winterhouse. As fate would have it, Elizabeth is the only person who can break the hotel’s curse and solve the mystery. But will it be at the cost of losing the people she has come to care for, and even Winterhouse itself?

     

    Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone

    Orphaned as an infant, young Harry Potter has been living a less-than-fortunate life. Belittled by his pompous uncle and sniveling aunt (not to mention his absolute terror of a cousin, Dudley), Harry has resigned himself to a mediocre existence in the cupboard under the stairs. But then the letters start dropping on the doormat at Number Four, Privet Drive. Addressed to “Mr. H. Potter” and stamped shut with a purple wax seal, the peculiar envelopes are swiftly confiscated by his relentlessly cruel family. But nothing stops Rubeus Hagrid, a great beetle-eyed giant of a man, from kicking down the door and bursting in with astonishing news: Harry Potter is a wizard-and not only a wizard, he’s an incredibly famous wizard. Hagrid spirits him away to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, setting into motion an incredible adventure

     

    Winter is the best time to read this book, after all, it’s set in a place that is always winter and never Christmas.

    The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe

    Four adventurous siblings—Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy Pevensie—step through a wardrobe door and into the land of Narnia, a land frozen in eternal winter and enslaved by the power of the White Witch. But when almost all hope is lost, the return of the Great Lion, Aslan, signals a great change . . . and a great sacrifice.

     

    This one is a tear jerker. I listened to the audiobook the first time around (which was great) and now I want to get my hands on a hard copy so I can read it again.

    Boy in the Striped Pajamas

    Berlin, 1942: When Bruno returns home from school one day, he discovers that his belongings are being packed in crates. His father has received a promotion and the family must move to a new house far, far away, where there is no one to play with and nothing to do. A tall fence stretches as far as the eye can see and cuts him off from the strange people in the distance.
     
    But Bruno longs to be an explorer and decides that there must be more to this desolate new place than meets the eye. While exploring his new environment, he meets another boy whose life and circumstances are very different from his own, and their meeting results in a friendship that has devastating consequences.

     

    One of L. M. Montgomery’s lesser known series’ is Emily Starr. She’s similar to well-known Anne but without the eternal optimism and I think a little more like L. M. Montgomery’s real life. 

    Emily of New Moon

    Emily Starr never knew what it was to be lonelyuntil her beloved father died. Now Emily’s an orphan, and her snobbish relatives are taking her to live with them at New Moon Farm. Although she’s sure she’ll never be happy there, Emily deals with her stern aunt Elizabeth and her malicious classmates by using her quick wit and holding her head high.

     

    I have to admit, I have not yet read this classic tale! I have heard so many amazing things about it though and it is near the top of my list for this year!

    Peter Pan

    Join Peter, Wendy, John, Michael, and the Lost Boys in their amazing adventures in the Neverland, where children learn to fly, and never have to grow up.

     

    It’s a classic and a good read for any age!

    Little House in the Big Woods

    Little House in the Big Woods takes place in 1871 and introduces us to four-year-old Laura, who lives in a log cabin on the edge of the Big Woods of Wisconsin. She shares the cabin with her Pa, her Ma, her sisters Mary and Carrie, and their lovable dog, Jack.

    Pioneer life isn’t easy for the Ingalls family, since they must grow or catch all their own food as they get ready for the cold winter. But they make the best of every tough situation. They celebrate Christmas with homemade toys and treats, do their spring planting, bring in the harvest in the fall, and make their first trip into town. And every night, safe and warm in their little house, the sound of Pa’s fiddle lulls Laura and her sisters into sleep.

     

    One of my absolute favorite middle grade books! This one is written in free verse (a form that I love) and it’s reminiscent of Laura Ingalls books, but with a lot more struggle.

    May B.

    I’ve known it since last night:
    It’s been too long to expect them to return.
    Something’s happened.

    May is helping out on a neighbor’s Kansas prairie homestead—just until Christmas, says Pa. She wants to contribute, but it’s hard to be separated from her family by 15 long, unfamiliar miles. Then the unthinkable happens: May is abandoned. Trapped in a tiny snow-covered sod house, isolated from family and neighbors, May must prepare for the oncoming winter. While fighting to survive, May’s memories of her struggles with reading at school come back to haunt her. But she’s determined to find her way home again.

     

    This is on it’s way to becoming a classic. Personally, I like the first book the best and I think it’s the best one to read in the winter!

    The Giver

    The haunting story centers on twelve-year-old Jonas, who lives in a seemingly ideal, if colorless, world of conformity and contentment. Not until he is given his life assignment as the Receiver of Memory does he begin to understand the dark, complex secrets behind his fragile community.

     

    I read this book last winter and it was the perfect time to read it, I felt like I could feel the cold that was making David shiver.

    I am David

    David’s entire twelve-year life has been spent in a grisly prison camp in Eastern Europe. He knows nothing of the outside world. But when he is given the chance to escape, he seizes it. With his vengeful enemies hot on his heels, David struggles to cope in this strange new world, where his only resources are a compass, a few crusts of bread, his two aching feet, and some vague advice to seek refuge in Denmark. Is that enough to survive?

     

    This is a book I have heard nothing but praise for. I have not read it myself yet but it’s on my list for this winter!

    Nevermoor

    Morrigan Crow is cursed. Having been born on Eventide, the unluckiest day for any child to be born, she’s blamed for all local misfortunes, from hailstorms to heart attacks–and, worst of all, the curse means that Morrigan is doomed to die at midnight on her eleventh birthday.

     
    But as Morrigan awaits her fate, a strange and remarkable man named Jupiter North appears. Chased by black-smoke hounds and shadowy hunters on horseback, he whisks her away into the safety of a secret, magical city called Nevermoor.
     
    It’s then that Morrigan discovers Jupiter has chosen her to contend for a place in the city’s most prestigious organization: the Wundrous Society. In order to join, she must compete in four difficult and dangerous trials against hundreds of other children, each with an extraordinary talent that sets them apart–an extraordinary talent that Morrigan insists she does not have. To stay in the safety of Nevermoor for good, Morrigan will need to find a way to pass the tests–or she’ll have to leave the city to confront her deadly fate.

     

    My only issue with this book is the cover. It makes the book look like it would be a typical princess story, I never would have picked this book up when I was younger because of it. The main character is small but tough and if you have kids that would be turned off by a normal princess story I beg you to give this one a try.

    Princess Academy

    Miri lives on a mountain where, for generations, her ancestors have lived a simple life. Then word comes that the king’s priests have divined her village the home of the future princess. In a year’s time, the prince will choose his bride from among the village girls.

    The king’s ministers set up an academy on the mountain, and every teenage girl must attend and learn how to become a princess. Soon Miri finds herself confronted with a harsh academy mistress, bitter competition among the girls, and her own conflicting desires. Winning the contest could give her everything she ever wanted–but it would mean leaving her home and family behind.

     

    This is a great reworking of a not-so-well-known Grimm fairy tale, once again Shannon Hale knocked it out of the park.

    The Goose Girl

    Anidori-Kiladra Talianna Isilee, Crown Princess of Kildenree, spends the first years of her life listening to her aunt’s stories and learning the language of the birds, especially the swans. As she grows up, Ani develops the skills of animal speech, but she never feels quite comfortable speaking with people.

    So when Ani’s mother sends her away to be married in a foreign land, she finds herself at the mercy of her silver-tongued lady in waiting, who leads a mutiny that leaves her alone, destitute, and fleeing for her life. To survive, Ani takes on work as a royal goose girl, hiding in plain sight while she develops her forbidden talents and works to discover her own true, powerful voice.

  • The Best Book Lists (Picture Books and Chapter Books) from Intentional Homeschooling
    book lists,  elementary,  middle grades,  picture books

    The Best Books – A Guide to the Best Book Lists

    If you’ve been around here for any length of time you’ll have noticed that I share a few book lists (the understatement of the year).

    I thought it would make sense to create a place to share some of the best and most popular of the book lists so that’s what this space is!

    This is by no means an exhaustive collection of all the book lists on this site, I also have many book lists by grade, monthly book lists, seasonal book lists, our monthly reading wrap up and a lot more. You can see all the lists here.

    I will keep this list updated and share the best of the best book lists from the blog here.

    Have an idea for a future book list topic? Let me know!

     

    If you love reading and discovering new books I would also highly recommend signing up for my monthly book-ish newsletter where I share all sorts of book-ish things:

     



     

    The Best Books for Kids - great book lists with over 150 book recommendations for babies, preschool, elementary, middle school, high school and adults!

     

    PICTURE BOOKS

     

     

    MONTHLY THEMED PICTURE BOOKS

     

    CHAPTER BOOKS

     
  • Free Pirate Unit Study Resources - great for talk like a pirate day
    book lists,  elementary,  middle grades,  picture books

    The Best Pirate Books – Picture Books & Non-Fiction

    We’ve been learning all about pirates for the last week in preparation for Talk Like a Pirate Day and of course I had to share a pirate book list!

    This list includes a bit of everything, picture books, chapter books, fiction and non-fiction.

    If you are interested in continuing to learn about pirates you can check out a list of the resources we used for our pirate unit study here.

     

    Free Pirate Unit Study Resources - great for talk like a pirate day

     

    We did everything from drawing pirates to creating pirate names, to watching videos about why they actual wore eye patches and of course: reading pirate themed books!

    Check out the pirate mini unit study resources.

    Now, on to the books!

     

    The Best Books About Pirates - picture books, chapter books, fiction and non-fiction

     

    THE BEST PIRATE BOOKS

    Our favorite Mem Fox picture book!

    Tough Boris

    Boris von der Borch is a mean, greedy old pirate–tough as nails, through and through, like all pirates. Or is he? When a young boy sneaks onto Boris’s ship, he discovers that Boris and his mates aren’t quite what he expected.

     

    Another ones of our favorite pirate picture books (also, I love that the French version is Petite Paul).

    Small Saul

    When Small Saul joins the crew of The Rusty Squid, it doesn’t take long for the other pirates to notice something is very different about this tiny fellow. He was born to sing sea shanties, bake pineapple upside down cakes and redecorate, not to hold a sword and plunder. Being rough and tough just isn’t in his nature.

     

    The Pirates Next Door

    Meet the Jolley-Rogers — a pirate family who is moving to Dull-on-Sea, a quiet seaside town, while they fix up their ship. This unusual family soon has the whole neighborhood gossiping. Defying the grown-ups, Matilda becomes friends with young pirate Jim Lad. When the JolleyRogers return to sea, the town realizes that they were wrong to assume the worst when it is discovered that the pirates have buried treasure in everyone’s yard. The neighbors are thrilled, but Matilda is sad to have lost her new friend, until she discovers her own treasure — a pen pal!

     

    Pirate Boy

    After reading his favorite book about a pirate boy, Danny wonders what would happen if he sailed away on a pirate ship. Luckily, his mother reassures him that she would find him, even if she had to swim on a dolphin, battle sea monsters, and wield a bottle of pirate-shrinking magic spray to do it! Young readers will love this adventurous and ultimately reassuring tale of a mother’s love.

     

    How I Became a Pirate

    Pirates have green teeth—when they have any teeth at all. I know about pirates, because one day, when I was at the beach building a sand castle and minding my own business, a pirate ship sailed into view.

    So proclaims Jeremy Jacob, a boy who joins Captain Braid Beard and his crew in this witty look at the finer points of pirate life by the Caldecott Honor–winning illustrator David Shannon and the storyteller Melinda Long. Jeremy learns how to say “scurvy dog,” sing sea chanteys, and throw food . . . but he also learns that there are no books or good night kisses on board: “Pirates don’t tuck.” A swashbuckling adventure with fantastically silly, richly textured illustrations that suit the story to a T.
     

    Pirates Past Noon

    It’s a treasure trove of trouble! Jack and Annie are in for a high-seas adventure when the Magic Tree House whisks them back to the days of deserted islands, secret maps—and ruthless pirates! Will they discover a buried treasure? Or will they be forced to walk the plank?

     

    Beware, Pirates!

    The old Canadian Flyer in the attic of Emily’s new house looks like just another old sled. But when eight-year-old Emily and nine-year-old Matt rub the sled’s maple leaf logo, they suddenly find themselves transported from the dusty old attic to Frobisher Bay. What’s more, they’re aboard Martin Frobisher’s ship The Aid and the year is 1577! Adventure beckons, and Emily and Matt are happy to follow. Until, that is, they meet up with honest-to-goodness pirates! This rollicking, fast-paced adventure, with black and white illustrations, brings Frobisher’s search for the Northwest Passage to life.

     

    A Year on a Pirate Ship

    Ahoy, mates! Would you like to know what life is like on a pirate ship? Then come live on board for the next twelve months. Check out these eight action-packed scenes for a bird’s-eye view of the life and work of pirates on the open seas. See how the pirates attack a ship, deal with a whale, and handle a storm. Keep your eye on the calendar too. By spending a whole year with the pirate crew, you can watch events unfold as the seasons change.

     

    This was one of our favorite books, we read through most of it, learning about different ways to be a “good” pirate, some of the myths and truths and some information about actual pirates.

    Pirate Handbook

    This is a humorous guide to life on the high seas packed with intriguing historical detail that no self-respecting sea-dog should leave port without. Young landlubbers can become the fiercest of pirates by finding out how to keep their ship in tip-top shape, the best way to settle an argument with a shipmate and how to survive a storm at sea. It reveals the true nature of piracy to be more fascinating than the myths of peg legs, eye patches and parrots.

     

    You Wouldn’t Want to Be a Pirate’s Prisoner!

    Pirates have many ingenious tortures, and once they have got what they want from you, the best you can hope for is to be marooned on an island.

     

    Pirates: Dead Men’s Tales: Incredible Facts, Maps and True Stories about Life on the High Seas

    Who were the real pirates of the Caribbean—and beyond? Find out! Pirates: Dead Men’s Tales brings us face to face with some of the most villainous and scurrilous rogues ever to sail the seven seas. Travel from North Africa to the China Seas to meet the notorious Blackbeard, the fearsome Barbarossa brothers, and the women pirates Mary Read, Anne Bonny, and Zheng Shi. With five sumptuous maps, themed spreads, and true tales of a pirate’s daily life, this book takes you on an epic adventure.

     

    Lives of the Pirates: Swashbucklers, Scoundrels (Neighbors Beware!)

    This long-awaited new volume in the acclaimed “Lives of” series presents the fascinating true tales of both notorious and little-known pirates. Why did Blackbeard and Long John Silver go to sea? Who was Madame Cheng? How did pirates really talk? What did they eat and what did they do to pass the time during long sea voyages? Lives of the Pirates answers these and many other questions.

     

    Pirates: True Stories of Seafaring Rogues

    This highly illustrated swashbuckling title is a visual treat and a book for the whole family to treasure. In it, readers can discover who were the real pirates of the Caribbean (and elsewhere). In Pirates: True Stories of Seafaring Rogues, we explore pirates throughout history and across the globe. We come face to face with some of the most villainous and scurrilous rogues ever to sail the seven seas. Included are the notorious Blackbeard, who terrorized the Caribbean and the Atlantic seaboard of America until he met his end in a dramatic shoot-out; and Captain Kidd, who might be the unluckiest pirate of all time, and whose legendary treasure is still sought after. These in-depth pirate profiles are interspersed with highly visual maps and curiosities exploring all the incredible details of life as a pirate on the high seas.

     

    Pirateology: The Pirate Hunter’s Companion

    Step lively, pirate foes and fanciers! Mysterious booty found inside a long-lost sea chest, hidden for hundreds of years off the coast of Newfoundland, has just been uncovered for your enjoyment. Within these covers is the fascinating eighteenth-century journal of Captain William Lubber, an earnest soul who sailed the seas in search of the vicious female pirate Arabella Drummond. Prepare for a mesmerizing tale of the golden age of piracy — from storm-tossed sailing ships to tantalizing treasure islands, from pirates’ flags and fashions to their wily weapons and wicked ways. An extraordinary find for pirateologists, here is a true and complete companion for the dedicated pirate hunter.

     

    Pirates Magnified

    Ahoy shipmate! Grab your magnifying glass and seek out history’s most notorious pirates in this swashbuckling search-and-find adventure, packed with over 200 things to spot! Explore the lives of 10 real pirates and learn about life on the high seas, whilst using the free magnifying glass to spot more than 200 pirate-themed items in each eye-boggling illustration. Kids will have fun using the magnifying glass to search whilst learning about real life pirates in this seafaring adventure!Ahoy shipmate! Grab your magnifying glass and seek out history’s most notorious pirates in this swashbuckling search-and-find adventure, packed with over 200 things to spot! Explore the lives of 10 real pirates and learn about life on the high seas, whilst using the free magnifying glass to spot more than 200 pirate-themed items in each eye-boggling illustration. Kids will have fun using the magnifying glass to search whilst learning about real life pirates in this seafaring adventure!

     

    If you have any pirate books you would add to this list I would love to hear about them!

  • The Prairie Thief Book Review - fantasy for elementary and middle grade
    book lists,  elementary,  middle grades

    Fantasy Book Recommendations For Elementary and Middle Grades

    I was not a fantasy reader as a child and boy, do I ever feel like I missed out!

    I wasn’t even a fantasy reader as an adult until recently!

    I spent the last few years reading some elementary and middle grade fantasy to proof read for my kids and it really hasn’t been until this last year or so that I’ve started to get into older fantasy and I am really enjoying the books!

    I love that fantasy gives the characters purpose (some version of fighting the darkness) and isn’t so woe-is-me like other books can tend to get (obviously I’m generalizing here).

    My daughter has been a huge fantasy book lover for the last number of years and I suspect this list will continue to grow as she reads more.

    If you have some fantasy book recommendations for elementary or middle grades that we didn’t include I would love for you to leave a comment at the bottom of the post or send me a message so we can check them out and possibly include them on the list!

     

    The Best Fantasy Book Recommendations for Elementary and Middle Grade - great examples of light vs dark

    ELEMENTARY FANTASY BOOK RECOMMENDATIONS

     

    The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe

    Four adventurous siblings—Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy Pevensie—step through a wardrobe door and into the land of Narnia, a land frozen in eternal winter and enslaved by the power of the White Witch. But when almost all hope is lost, the return of the Great Lion, Aslan, signals a great change . . . and a great sacrifice.

     

    The Kingdom of Wrenly

    Welcome to the Kingdom of Wrenly—a new chapter book series full of fantasy and adventure.

    Meet Lucas, the eight year-old prince, and Clara, the daughter of the queen’s seamstress. Lucas is an only child who longs to make friends and go on adventures. Clara knows the kingdom well, so she and Lucas team up and explore the lands of Wrenly!

    In The Lost Stone, Lucas and Clara search for Queen Tasha’s missing emerald. On their exciting adventure, they travel to all the main attractions of Wrenly: Primlox (the island of fairies), Burth (the island of trolls), Crestwood (the island of dragons), Hobsgrove (the island of wizards), and the beautiful Mermaid’s Cove. King Caleb has promised to reward the person who finds the precious stone, and Lucas and Clara are determined to search the entire kingdom until they find it!

     

    The BFG

    The BFG is no ordinary bone-crunching giant. He is far too nice and jumbly. It’s lucky for Sophie that he is. Had she been carried off in the middle of the night by the Bloodbottler, or any of the other giants—rather than the BFG—she would have soon become breakfast. When Sophie hears that the giants are flush-bunking off to England to swollomp a few nice little chiddlers, she decides she must stop them once and for all. And the BFG is going to help her!

     

    This book is hilarious, I highly recommend listening to it on audio as Neil Gaiman does SUCH a great job of narrating (as well as writing).

    Fortunately, The Milk

    “I bought the milk,” said my father. “I walked out of the corner shop, and heard a noise like this: t h u m m t h u m m. I looked up and saw a huge silver disc hovering in the air above Marshall Road.”

    “Hullo,” I said to myself. “That’s not something you see every day. And then something odd happened.”

     

    Half Magic

    It all begins with a strange coin on a sun-warmed sidewalk. Jane finds the coin, and because she and her siblings are having the worst, most dreadfully boring summer ever, she idly wishes something exciting would happen. And something does: Her wish is granted. Or not quite. Only half of her wish comes true. It turns out the coin grants wishes—but only by half, so that you must wish for twice as much as you want. Wishing for two times some things is a cinch, but other doubled wishes only cause twice as much trouble. What is half of twice a talking cat? Or to be half-again twice not-here? And how do you double your most heartfelt wish, the one you care about so much it has to be perfect?

     

    You can read my full review of this book here.

    Prairie Thief

    Louisa Brody’s life on the Colorado prairie is not at all what she expected. Her dear Pa, accused of thievery, is locked thirty miles away in jail. She’s living with the awful Smirches, her closest neighbors and the very family that accused her Pa of the horrendous crime. And now she’s discovered one very cantankerous—and magical—secret beneath the hazel grove. With her life flipped upside-down, it’s up to Louisa, her sassy friend Jessamine, and that cranky secret to save Pa from a guilty verdict.

     

    City of Ember

    The city of Ember was built as a last refuge for the human race. Two hundred years later, the great lamps that light the city are beginning to dim. When Lina finds part of an ancient message, she’s sure it holds a secret that will save the city. Now, she and her friend Doon must race to figure out the clues to keep the lights on. If they succeed, they will have to convince everyone to follow them into danger. But if they fail? The lights will burn out and the darkness will close in forever.

     

    The Spiderwick Chronicles

    After finding a mysterious, handmade field guide in the attic of the ramshackle old mansion they’ve just moved into, Jared; his twin brother, Simon; and their older sister, Mallory, discover that there’s a magical and maybe dangerous world existing parallel to our own—the world of faerie.

     

    MIDDLE GRADE FANTASY BOOK RECOMMENDATIONS

     

    My daughter loved this book!

    Bliss

    Rosemary Bliss’s family has a secret. It’s the Bliss Cookery Booke—an ancient, leather-bound volume of enchanted recipes like Singing Gingersnaps.

    Rose and her siblings are supposed to keep the Cookery Booke locked away while their parents are out of town, but then a mysterious stranger shows up. “Aunt” Lily rides a motorcycle and also whips up exotic (but delicious) dishes for dinner. Soon boring, non-magical recipes feel like life before Aunt Lily—a lot less fun.

    So Rose and her siblings experiment with just a couple of recipes from the forbidden Cookery Booke. A few Love Muffins and Cookies of Truth couldn’t cause too much trouble . . . could they?

     

    Tuesdays at the Castle

    Tuesdays at Castle Glower are Princess Celie’s favorite days. That’s because on Tuesdays the Castle adds a new room, a turret, or sometimes even an entire wing. No one ever knows what the Castle will do next, and no one-other than Celie, that is-takes the time to map out the new additions.

    But when King and Queen Glower are ambushed and their fate is unknown, it’s up to Celie, with her secret knowledge of the castle’s never-ending twists and turns, to protect their home and save their kingdom.

     

    We listened to the first book on audio and can’t wait to continue with the rest of the series!

    Redwall

    The question in this first volume is resoundingly clear: What can the peace-loving mice of Redwall Abbey do to defend themselves against Cluny the Scourge and his battle-seasoned army of rats? If only they had the sword of Martin the Warrior, they might have a chance. But the legendary weapon has long been forgotten-except, that is, by the bumbling young apprentice Matthias, who becomes the unlikeliest of heroes. 

     

    We are currently halfway through listening to this series as a family and need to continue to the end to find out how it all ends!

    On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness

    Once, in a cottage above the cliffs on the Dark Sea of Darkness, there lived three children and their trusty dog Nugget. Janner Igiby, his brother Tink, their crippled sister Leeli are gifted children as all children are, loved well by a noble mother and ex-pirate grandfather. But they will need all their gifts and all that love to survive the evil pursuit of the venomous Fangs of Dang who have crossed the dark sea to rule the land with malice and pursue the Igibys who hold the secret to the lost legend and jewels of good King Wingfeather of the Shining Isle of Anniera.

     

    My only problem with this book is the word “Princess” in the title, that would have scared me off as a child (because I was a tomboy) but it’s not really a princessy type of book and I totally would have enjoyed it.

    Princess Academy

    Miri lives on a mountain where, for generations, her ancestors have lived a simple life. Then word comes that the king’s priests have divined her village the home of the future princess. In a year’s time, the prince will choose his bride from among the village girls.

    The king’s ministers set up an academy on the mountain, and every teenage girl must attend and learn how to become a princess. Soon Miri finds herself confronted with a harsh academy mistress, bitter competition among the girls, and her own conflicting desires. Winning the contest could give her everything she ever wanted–but it would mean leaving her home and family behind.

     

    This book was written for book lovers!

    Tilly and the Book Wanderers

    Since her mother’s disappearance, eleven-year-old Tilly has found comfort in stories at Pages & Co., her grandparents’ bookshop. But when her favourite characters, Anne of Green Gables and Alice from Wonderland, appear in the shop, Tilly’s adventures become very real. Not only can she follow Anne and Alice into their thrilling worlds, she discovers she can bookwander into any story she chooses.

    Tilly’s new ability could even help her solve the mystery of what happened to her mother all those years ago. But danger may be lurking on the very next page . . .

     

    To be honest, this was a book my kids enjoyed more than I did. My daughter plan on continuing on with the series she enjoyed the first book so much.

    100 Cupboards

    What dangers are locked behind the cupboard doors? Henry isn’t brave, but when he hears a thumping and scratching on the other side of his bedroom wall, he can’t ignore it. He scrapes off the plaster and discovers mysterious doors—cupboards of all different shapes and sizes. Through one he sees a glowing room and a man strolling back and forth. Through another he sees only darkness and feels the cold sense that something isn’t right. When his cousin Henrietta boldly travels into the worlds beyond the cupboards, it’s up to Henry to follow her. Now that he’s opened the doors, can he keep the evil inside from coming through?

     

    The Enchanted Castle

    When Jerry, Jimmy, and Kathleen are forced to spend their entire summer at school they don’t imagine they will have a particularly interesting time. But that’s before they stumble upon a mysterious castle set in beautiful, abandoned gardens. Could this really be an enchanted castle? With the air thick with magic and a maze hiding a sleeping girl at its center, the holidays might just be looking up.

     

    Because this book has been turned into a movie I feel like it is more of the well-known fantasies on this list but from what I’ve seen of the movie trailer the book is a lot better!

    Ella Enchanted

    At her birth, Ella of Frell receives a foolish fairy’s gift—the “gift” of obedience. Ella must obey any order, whether it’s to hop on one foot for a day and a half, or to chop off her own head! But strong-willed Ella does not accept her fate…

    Against a bold backdrop of princes, ogres, giants, wicked stepsisters, and fairy godmothers, Ella goes on a quest to break the curse forever.

     

    This is another book that we listened to the first book together and my daughter plans on continuing on her own. (We just don’t have time to listen to every series in its entirety together so I like to give them a sampling of books and see which ones they continue with.)

    The Green Ember

    Heather and Picket are extraordinary rabbits with ordinary lives until calamitous events overtake them, spilling them into a cauldron of misadventures. They discover that their own story is bound up in the tumult threatening to overwhelm the wider world.

    Kings fall and kingdoms totter. Tyrants ascend and terrors threaten. Betrayal beckons, and loyalty is a broken road with peril around every bend.

    Where will Heather and Picket land? How will they make their stand?

     

    Inkheart

    One cruel night, Meggie’s father reads aloud from a book called INKHEART– and an evil ruler escapes the boundaries of fiction and lands in their living room. Suddenly, Meggie is smack in the middle of the kind of adventure she has only read about in books. Meggie must learn to harness the magic that has conjured this nightmare. For only she can change the course of the story that has changed her life forever.

    This is INKHEART–a timeless tale about books, about imagination, about life. Dare to read it aloud.

     

    Technically this book and series are for a bit of an older crowd though I personally think this book is great for middle grade and then the rest of the series is more for the teen readers.

    Goose Girl

    Anidori-Kiladra Talianna Isilee, Crown Princess of Kildenree, spends the first years of her life listening to her aunt’s stories and learning the language of the birds, especially the swans. As she grows up, Ani develops the skills of animal speech, but she never feels quite comfortable speaking with people.

    So when Ani’s mother sends her away to be married in a foreign land, she finds herself at the mercy of her silver-tongued lady in waiting, who leads a mutiny that leaves her alone, destitute, and fleeing for her life. To survive, Ani takes on work as a royal goose girl, hiding in plain sight while she develops her forbidden talents and works to discover her own true, powerful voice.

     

    I am linking to the first book here, the first three books in the series I think are great for ages 6-9 but then after that, from what I’ve read in my research, I plan on waiting a little before allowing them to get into the rest of the series as the books apparently get darker, not to mention thicker!

    Harry Potter

    Harry Potter has no idea how famous he is. That’s because he’s being raised by his miserable aunt and uncle who are terrified Harry will learn that he’s really a wizard, just as his parents were. But everything changes when Harry is summoned to attend an infamous school for wizards, and he begins to discover some clues about his illustrious birthright. From the surprising way he is greeted by a lovable giant, to the unique curriculum and colorful faculty at his unusual school, Harry finds himself drawn deep inside a mystical world he never knew existed and closer to his own noble destiny.

     

    And there you have it, the list (for now, I’ll probably add more in the future).

    If you have some fantasy book recommendations for elementary or middle grades that we didn’t include I would love for you to leave a comment here or send me a message so we can check them out and possibly include them on the list!

  • Independent Books for Fourth Graders to Read
    book lists,  elementary,  middle grades

    17 Independent Reads for Grade 4

    Every year I like to create a list of independent reads for my daughter (and will do the same for my son once he is reading on his own). She never reads every book on the list but I enjoy making it nonetheless.

    My main goal of the independent reading list is to push her out of her comfort zone. She can read harder books but can easily get into the rut of re-reading all the Geronimo Stilton books.

    I give her separate reading time during our official school portion of the day to read her current book off of my list so she also has other time to read her own books.

    This year she wanted to add some of her own ideas to the list so I have included them at the end of this list, I’m okay with all the books she added and my only request is that she doesn’t read two easy books back to back (like all the Roald Dahl books).

    I tried to be diverse in the books I picked out but a lot of fairly heavy books made it on to my list, so maybe it’s a good thing she picked some lighter books so this year doesn’t get known as the year of the gut wrenching books.

    If you have suggestions of books that you would add to this list I would love to hear them, I’m always looking for more great books to give to her.

     

    17 Independent Reads for Grade Four - Great Books to Read in Grade Four

     

    SEVENTEEN BOOKS TO READ IN GRADE FOUR

     

    This is the easiest and lightest book on my list. She’s actually listened to it on audio at least once but because it’s a fourth grade book I couldn’t help but add it on here.

    Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing

    Two is a crowd when Peter and his little brother, Fudge, are in the same room. Grown-ups think Fudge is absolutely adorable, but Peter and his pet turtle, Dribble, know the truth. From throwing temper tantrums to smearing mashed potatoes on the wall, Fudge causes mischief wherever he goes!

     

    I read this book for the first time earlier this year and enjoyed it and knew right away that my daughter would have to read it soon.

    The Story Girl

    Sara Stanley is only fourteen, but she can weave tales that are impossible to resist. In the charming town of Carlisle, children and grown-ups alike flock from miles around to hear her spellbinding tales. And when Bev King and his younger brother Felix arrive for the summer, they, too, are captivated by the Story Girl. Whether she’s leading them on exciting misadventures or narrating timeless stories–from the scary “Tale of the Family Ghost” to the fanciful “How Kissing Was Discovered” to the bittersweet “The Blue Chest of Rachel Ward”–the Story Girl has her audience hanging on every word.

     

    The Sign of the Beaver

    Although he faces responsibility bravely, thirteen-year-old Matt is more than a little apprehensive when his father leaves him alone to guard their new cabin in the wilderness. When a renegade white stranger steals his gun, Matt realizes he has no way to shoot game or to protect himself. When Matt meets Attean, a boy in the Beaver clan, he begins to better understand their way of life and their growing problem in adapting to the white man and the changing frontier.

     

    I remember reading this one in elementary school, it’s an emotional one but a good one.

    Bridge to Terabithia

    Jess Aarons has been practicing all summer so he can be the fastest runner in the fifth grade. And he almost is, until the new girl in school, Leslie Burke, outpaces him. The two become fast friends and spend most days in the woods behind Leslie’s house, where they invent an enchanted land called Terabithia. One morning, Leslie goes to Terabithia without Jess and a tragedy occurs. It will take the love of his family and the strength that Leslie has given him for Jess to be able to deal with his grief.

     

    We actually listened to the first book in the series together a couple of months ago, so I would like her to read the second book in the series: Mossflower.

    Redwall

    The question in this first volume is resoundingly clear: What can the peace-loving mice of Redwall Abbey do to defend themselves against Cluny the Scourge and his battle-seasoned army of rats? If only they had the sword of Martin the Warrior, they might have a chance. But the legendary weapon has long been forgotten-except, that is, by the bumbling young apprentice Matthias, who becomes the unlikeliest of heroes. Teeming with riddles, humor, unforgettable characters, and high-bounding adventure, the original Redwall is the launching point for a series that has captured the world’s attention.

     

    The 90’s movie version has always been one of my favorite movies.

    A Little Princess

    Alone in a new country, wealthy Sara Crewe tries to settle in and make friends at boarding school. But when she learns that she’ll never see her beloved father gain, her life is turned upside down. Transformed from princess to pauper, she must swap dancing lessons and luxury for hard work and a room in the attic. Will she find that kindness and generosity are all the riches she truly needs?

     

    Black Beauty

    The gentle thoroughbred, Black Beauty, is raised with care and is treated well until a vicious groom injures him. The damaged horse is then sold to various masters at whose hands he experiences cruelty and neglect. After many unpleasant episodes, including one where he becomes a painfully overworked cab horse in London, Black Beauty finally canters towards a happy ending.

     

    Where the Red Fern Grows

    A loving threesome, Billy and his two dogs ranged the dark hills and river bottoms of Cherokee country. Old Dan has the brawn, Little Ann has the brains, and Billy has the will to make them into the finest hunting team in the valley. Glory and victory were coming to them, but sadness waited too. Soon their skills will be put to the test as they brave the dangers of the wilds for the ultimate glory.

     

    The Secret Garden

    When orphaned Mary Lennox comes to live at her uncle’s great house on the Yorkshire Moors, she finds it full of secrets. The mansion has nearly one hundred rooms, and her uncle keeps himself locked up. And at night, she hears the sound of crying down one of the long corridors.

    The gardens surrounding the large property are Mary’s only escape. Then, Mary discovers a secret garden, surrounded by walls and locked with a missing key. With the help of two unexpected companions, Mary discovers a way in—and becomes determined to bring the garden back to life.

     

     

    MY DAUGHTER’S SUGGESTIONS

    Here are the books my daughter wanted to add to the list (apparently she wants to read a lot of Roald Dahl books this year):

     

    We’ve been following this guide for Harry Potter for when she can read and watch Harry Potter. I’ve read the first two books and currently don’t care to read the rest myself but she really likes the story.

    Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

    For twelve long years, the dread fortress of Azkaban held an infamous prisoner named Sirius Black. Convicted of killing thirteen people with a single curse, he was said to be the heir apparent to the Dark Lord, Voldemort.

    Now he has escaped, leaving only two clues as to where he might be headed: Harry Potter’s defeat of You-Know-Who was Black’s downfall as well. And the Azkban guards heard Black muttering in his sleep, “He’s at Hogwarts…he’s at Hogwarts.”

    Harry Potter isn’t safe, not even within the walls of his magical school, surrounded by his friends. Because on top of it all, there may well be a traitor in their midst.

     

    I think she actually wants to read the entire series (I’m not sure if she has read it in the past or just listened to it), but she especially wants to read this one.

    The Voyage of the Dawn Treader

    Through this enchanted painting Edmund and Lucy, accompanied by their unwilling and unpleasant cousin Eustace, once again enter the magical world of Narnia.

     

    Matilda

    Matilda is a sweet, exceptional young girl, but her parents think she’s just a nuisance. She expects school to be different but there she has to face Miss Trunchbull, a kid-hating terror of a headmistress. When Matilda is attacked by the Trunchbull she suddenly discovers she has a remarkable power with which to fight back. It’ll take a superhuman genius to give Miss Trunchbull what she deserves and Matilda may be just the one to do it!

     

    Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

    Willy Wonka’s famous chocolate factory is opening at last! But only five lucky children will be allowed inside. And the winners are: Augustus Gloop, an enormously fat boy whose hobby is eating; Veruca Salt, a spoiled-rotten brat whose parents are wrapped around her little finger; Violet Beauregarde, a dim-witted gum-chewer with the fastest jaws around; Mike Teavee, a toy pistol-toting gangster-in-training who is obsessed with television; and Charlie Bucket, Our Hero, a boy who is honest and kind, brave and true, and good and ready for the wildest time of his life!

     

    The Witches

    Grandmamma loves to tell about witches. Real witches are the most dangerous of all living creatures on earth. There’s nothing they hate so much as children, and they work all kinds of terrifying spells to get rid of them. Her grandson listens closely to Grandmamma’s stories—but nothing can prepare him for the day he comes face-to-face with The Grand High Witch herself!

     

    George’s Marvelous Medicine

    A taste of her own medicine.

    George is alone in the house with Grandma. The most horrid, grizzly old grunion of a grandma ever. She needs something stronger than her usual medicine to cure her grouchiness. A special grandma medicine, a remedy for everything. And George knows just what to put into it. Grandma’s in for the surprise of her life—and so is George, when he sees the results of his mixture!

     

    Fantastic Mr. Fox

    Someone’s been stealing from the three meanest farmers around, and they know the identity of the thief—it’s Fantastic Mr. Fox! Working alone they could never catch him; but now fat Boggis, squat Bunce, and skinny Bean have joined forces, and they have Mr. Fox and his family surrounded. What they don’t know is that they’re not dealing with just any fox—Mr. Fox would rather die than surrender. Only the most fantastic plan can save him now.

     

    Danny the Champion of the World

    Danny has a life any boy would love—his home is a gypsy caravan, he’s the youngest master car mechanic around, and his best friend is his dad, who never runs out of wonderful stories to tell. But one night Danny discovers a shocking secret that his father has kept hidden for years. Soon Danny finds himself the mastermind behind the most incredible plot ever attempted against nasty Victor Hazell, a wealthy landowner with a bad attitude. Can they pull it off? If so, Danny will truly be the champion of the world.