A variety of themes abound in novels for middle-grade readers

Published: Tuesday, Aug. 5 2014 5:10 p.m. MDT

Every summer needs a story, and middle-grade novels have exciting stories galore. There are books about friendships and stories about fathers and sons. There are stories about real-life events and a novel relating the effects of a natural disaster.

This selection of middle-grade novels includes high-interest plots about protagonists ages 8 through 14. None of the titles contains violent scenes or objectionable language. The books mentioned are not currently part of a series.

ZANE AND THE HURRICANE: A Story of Katrina,” by Rodman Philbrick, Blue Sky Press/ Scholastic. $16.99, 192 pages (ages 10-14)

Twelve-year-old Zane with his dog, Bandy, are visiting his great-grandmother in New Orleans when Hurricane Katrina hits. He is separated from her while they try to evacuate the city. The boy and his dog are rescued by an old man, Tru, and his young guardian, Malvina. Braving the rising water, the three are threatened by criminals, would-be law men, and the treacherous flood waters teaming with copperhead snakes and filthy debris.

Award-winning author Rodman Philbrick has spun a can’t-put-it-down thriller based on real conditions during the Katrina crisis. The unsafe conditions including death, the terrible stench and lack of law enforcement witnessed by the three personalize the story. Included is a map of the area before and after the flood as well as a timeline and supporting factual information about Hurricane Katrina.

"WIND DANCER,” by Chris Platt, Peachtree, $15.95, 124 pages (ages 8-12)

Ali and Cara are persistent until they finally get help for their neighbor's two abused and neglected horses. As the authorities board them on Ali’s farm, special feeding and medicinal schedules from the veterinarians are mandatory. But Ali has two problems in her 13-year-old life: Her favorite pony has recently been put down after an accident and caring for new animals is not her choice. And her brother Danny has returned from the war suffering from scars and PTSD.

“Wind Dancer” incorporates details about animal training, the far-reaching effects of war on families and the impact animals can make in people’s lives.

A SNICKER OF MAGIC,” by Natalie Lloyd, Scholastic, $16.99, 320 pages (ages 8-12)

Felicity likes words: “I collect them. I like poems, songs, stories … sometimes they have wings and sometimes tap shoes and sometimes zebra stripes.”

But Felicity has problems putting her own words together and especially when she has to say the words.

Felicity, her mother and sister return to Midnight Gulch where memories of the Brothers Threadbare bring back magic that still circulates among the villagers. Jonah, who wants to be her friend (something Felicity had never had before), calls it a “snicker of magic” town and helps her devise a plan so she can speak her precious words as well as render pass-it-on service.

“A Snicker of Magic" is delightfully unique with “factofabulous” characters and splashes of mystery that almost seem real.

HALF A CHANCE,” by Cynthia Lord, Scholastic, $16.99, 218 pages (ages 6-10)

Lucy and her parents move to a house on a New Hampshire lake. When her father, a famous photographer, leaves on a work assignment, Lucy decides to enter a photo contest anonymously because her father is actually the judge. She uses the spectacular scenery, the next-door neighbors and the hatching of baby loons as subjects for her picture entries. “Half a Chance” also has a tender portrayal of an aged grandmother and new friendships, both of which give support through the bad times and celebrate the good ones.

LONG GONE DADDY,” by Helen Hemphill, Boyds Mills, $8.95, 175 pages (ages 8-12)

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