Liberty Frye and the Witches of Hessen by J.L. McCreedy

Liberty Frye and the Witches of Hessen
by J.L. McCreedy

The author’s website has a great map of Liberty’s adventures through Germany and links to websites where you can read the Grimm fairy tales for free. I did not find any book trailers online.  **Full disclosure – I received a print copy of this book for free from the author.

Summary from author’s website:

The average ten-year-old girl seldom travels far from home.  She doesn’t worry about being kidnapped by witches or imprisoned in medieval castles where children are ensnared to meet their unspeakable demise.  She rarely gives thought to curses, potions and magic.  She certainly isn’t risking life and limb to decipher ancient rites and lost treasures….

But Liberty Frye is about to discover she is not just an average girl.

When a cryptic note from long-lost relatives arrives, the news it brings flips Libby’s small-town existence upside down.  Soon, she finds herself lured to a foreign land where retired witches, talking bats and geriatric World War II pilots await.  It’s up to Libby to unravel the sinister plot that brought her there in the first place, but in so doing, she’ll uncover a shocking secret that will change her life forever … if she survives the challenge.

Personal Reaction: I liked it!

Any Cautions: Boiled boy imagery

Curriculum or discussion topics: Fairy tales

Connections to other books: Grimm’s Fairy Tales: Complete and Illustrated, The Sisters Grimm series by Buckley, A Tale Dark and Grimm by Gidwitz, Tales from the Brothers Grimm and the Sisters Weird by VandeVelde; Germany travel book, cookbooks

Items to display with book: Stuffed animals (goose and raven), recipe cards or family book of recipes, slingshot, letter in yellow envelope, map w/ “future adventure” dots; photo of dilapidated Victorian house, German castle and German cottage; toy robot, walkie-talkies, blue amulet on a silver necklace, map of Germany or Hanau, “Fairy Tale” road map, backpack, photo of P-40 Army Air Corps fighter plane WWII, black cauldron, photo of bright red tree “Baum des Feuers” (here’s a shot of a red maple)

Food items connected to story: Berries (purple – try blueberries or jaboticaba), Herbs and spices (witch’s pantry stuff); tea, any kind of bakery pastry, bread rolls, chocolate cake, fruitcake, strudel, cheesecakes


The Hunchback Assignments by Arthur Slade

Series website includes official book trailer – I love the updated cover!

Summary: Modo is found at a traveling freak show as a infant by a man who wants to use Modo’s chameleon ability to mimic faces (and later, bodyshapes). Mr. Socrates takes Modo and raises him in seclusion then later dumps the teenager on the streets of London to pass a survival test. Modo uses his abilities and strength to become a PI (finder of lost things). He’s hired by teen Octavia to help find her brother but she’s actually another of Mr. Socrates’s operatives in town. Both Modo and Tavia become allies in the investigation to find out what the evil Clockwork Guild has in store for the leaders of Europe.

Personal Reaction: Audiobook narrator Jayne Entwistle was excellent. Some story similarities with Hunchback of Notre Dame in that the main character is deformed and is taken in by an older man who intends to hide him away from people until useful. There’s a version of Dr. Hyde. Steampunk genre. One of my favorite parts is the underwater scene where Fuhr decides to make it to the dock. I can definitely see how this novel will lead into a series of more adventures for Modo (and hopefully Tavia too!) Only Mrs. Finchley shows Modo guarded affection, though Mr. Socrates and Tharpa were not mean, but I ached to hug Modo.

Connections to other books: The Hunchback of Notre-Dame and Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde of course! The rest of this series, start with book 2 The Dark Deeps; Steampunk genre titles like Leviathan by Westerfeld – here’s a list by Goodreads; NF Books about clockwork, steam powered items, Victorian Era London

Items to display with book: clockwork toys of any kind, but sparrow/bird or photo of same would be best; photos of orphanages in Victorian era London; photos of hairy children might be pushing it, but this one works; masks (black and flesh tone) and your kids could make their own; dark cape with hood; era spyglass;

Food items connected to story: bread, butter, honey, cheese

Gr 7+ (maybe gr 6 if the child doesn’t have nightmares often)

The Aztec Code by Stephen Cole

(wikipedia website lists bibliography & link to author page, but this book is not listed on author page, so I don’t know whether to recommend it)                                                     No video trailer found.

Summary: Group of early twenty-somethings (maybe late teens?) with theft specialties and a touch of paranormal (lockpicking, codebreaking, truthtelling and mesmerism) recruited from bad lives to work together to steal for a rich mastermind. Aztec treasure wrapped up with vengeful goddess worshippers along with a small nuclear bomb and biowarfare. It’s got plenty of action!

Personal Reaction: Decent demonic adventure, though I liked Horowitz’s The Gatekeepers series more. Too much adult content to be recommended to middle grades (sexual innuendo, one vague encounter, alcohol, a little cursing but the repeated word was pu**y). This is a supplemental/personal choice read for the guys who get interested in the unit on ancient cultures.

Connections to other books: Middleworld by Voelkel is more suitable (though Mayan) adventure for middle school though just as bloody; The Thief Lord  by Funke (gang of thieves for middle graders); Higher Institute of Villainous Education by Walden for middle grades, Evil Genius by Jinks for upper middle, NERDS by Buckley for the youngest readers or (criminal masterminds fun – but this is a stretch to make connections for these books); You Wouldn’t Want to Be an Aztec Sacrifice! by McDonald; nonfiction on Hernando Cortes or the Aztec culture

Items to display with book: Aztec realia (stone pyramid model, picture of Coatlicue, skulls, stone altar);  fake treasure (bracelets, jade items, pottery); spy gadgets (lockpicks, handheld devices, glass eye, book on codes & ciphers); yellow “radioactive” warning signage, toy helicopter

Food items connected to story: pizza, McD’s Filet-o-Fish

Project Sweet Life by Brent Hartinger

author’s website     video trailer  (fan made)

Summary: The 3 main characters are 15 year old boys whose parents want them to get summer jobs but they wanted this last summer off. Dave, Curtis and Victor try scheme after scheme to make money (without actually getting the jobs they pretend to have gotten to their parents).  Bank robbery, a busted Ferrari, and  local urban legends of lost treasure… they have a summer of adventure, all the while knowing “the truth will out.”

Personal Reaction: This one was great, kind of like Lawn Boy by Paulsen but with more active participation in the outcome. This even reminded me of No More Dead Dogs by Korman where it is also shown how much work it can be NOT to do something.

Curriculum or discussion topics: Character traits, friendship

Connections to other books: There’s lots of fiction books about jobs out there! Acceleration by Mcnamee (creepy), One Fat Summer by Lipsyte (drama), Small Steps by Sachar, Dunk by Lubar, etc. There are several books for teens and parents available on how to land a summer job (even a Community Service series) or how to raise financially responsible teens (like Money Still Doesn’t Grow on Trees).

Items to display with book: Lifeguard apparel or towel, KFC bucket, statue or large cutout of “Mr. Moneybags” from Monopoly, porcelain vase, flashlight, bmx bikes (or those finger bike toys), “Garage Sale” sign, model Ferrari toy car; fake money

Food items connected to story: chocolate gold coins, fried chicken,  pie, BLT

Alibi Junior High by Greg Logsted

I don’t know about the suit wearing, but this was a cute book all the same. It does not put teachers in a positive light for the most part and that makes me sad. The action spy stuff and the relationship subplot will make this a good choice for middle school boys and girls, I think. Grades 5 and up.

Barnes & Noble for summary & more reviews.

fan created digital book trailer