Unfortunately, your access has now expired. But there’s good news—by subscribing today, you will receive 22 issues of Booklist magazine, 4 issues of Book Links, and single-login access to Booklist Online and over 200,000 reviews.
Your access to Booklist Online has expired. If you still subscribe to the print magazine, please proceed to your profile page and check your subscriber number against a current magazine mailing label. (If your print subscription has lapsed, you will need to renew.)
Free Trial, activate profile, or subscribe
Find more Reid-Aloud Alert: Danger Ahead!
Thrillers! Page-turners! Suspenseful stories can be found in many genres: mysteries, survival stories, fantasy, science fiction, and historical fiction. Kids get vicarious thrills from such exciting tales, and they can make a reader out of a nonreader while also grabbing the attention of the most avid young readers around. As always, the “10-Minute Selections” are stand-alone sections that can be shared when a teacher, librarian, or parent doesn’t have time to read the entire book. The time can actually be anywhere from 5 to 15 minutes in length.
Fairy Tale Retellings
Sleeping Beauty’s Daughters, by Diane Zahler (Gr. 4–6): Aurora, the daughter of Sleeping Beauty, learns that the curse of sleeping for 100 years has been passed on to her by the evil fairy Manon. When Aurora pricks her finger and draws blood, she and her sister, Luna, go on a perilous journey to find Emmeline, the fairy who can save her. In addition to being chased by Manon, the sisters encounter half-wolf, half-boar creatures; quicksand; sirens (of the mermaid variety); sea dragons; and whirlpools. They find Emmeline with the help of a young fisher-boy and an imp-like creature, known as a lutin, who has a surprise. Unfortunately, as Emmeline starts to help Aurora, Manon shows up.
10-Minute Selection: Read the second half of chapter 2, beginning with the lines, “I have never told you about my life. It is . . . not a happy story,” and read to the end of the chapter. Sleeping Beauty tells her daughters what led to her being cursed by the evil fairy Manon. The daughters learn for the first time that their mother actually slept for 100 years. Move on to the middle of chapter 3, beginning with the line, “Papa took up his tale, his voice weaving a spell in the dim room.” The girl’s father explains how he found the castle and woke their mother with a kiss. The chapter ends with the stunning news that Aurora has been cursed by Manon: “Aurora, like your mother, you shall prick your finger and sleep for a hundred years.”
, by Patricia Reilly Giff (Gr. 4–6): Eleven-year-old Siria chases fire trucks in the night, mostly to keep watch on her firefighter father. She’s worried about his safety because of the outbreak of fires in the neighborhood. Siria is convinced that her friend Douglas is an arsonist.
10-Minute Selection: Read chapter 11. It’s nearly midnight when Siria hears the sounds of sirens close by. She climbs down the fire escape from her apartment to learn that a factory is burning: “More trucks pulled up; the dispatcher had called in a second house for help. That meant a three-alarm fire: hot and dangerous.” Siria spots her father climbing on a ladder eight stories up. Pop rescues a security guard and then goes right back up to rescue another person. The chapter ends with Siria watching her father bringing a second guard down the ladder: “Another board from the roof teetered high over Pop’s head. Everyone below gasped. The board was falling, and Pop was underneath.”
Tesla’s Attic, by Neal Shusterman and Eric Elfman (Gr. 4–8): Eighth-grader Nick discovers a lot of antique junk in the attic of the house that he, his father, and his brother have moved into. The “junk” turns out to have weird functions; for example, there is a reel-to-reel tape recorder that records thoughts as well as sounds, and there is a camera that takes pictures of the future. A dangerous secret society threatens Nick, demanding that he turn over these “lost inventions of the original mad scientist” Nikola Tesla. One of these inventions draws a large asteroid on a collision course with earth, where “while thankfully putting an end to reality TV forever, would also put an end to reality.”
10-Minute Selection: Begin reading a few pages into chapter 2, “Everything Must Go,” starting with the line, “Caitlin was deathly afraid of getting struck by lightning again.” We meet Caitlin, who, along with several other people, is drawn to Nick’s garage sale by some unknown force. Folks are thrusting money at Nick to buy the old junk he’s selling. Caitlin herself finds that she absolutely must purchase an old reel-to-reel tape recorder. At the end of the long chapter, a man in a vanilla suit with a “cheery, soulless smile” shows up after all of the items have been sold. He leaves a business card and tells Nick to find out where the items have gone: “We’ll make it worth your while. Very worth your while.” Fans of the television show Warehouse 13 will be particularly interested in this multifaceted science-fiction novel.
Robbie Forester and the Outlaws of Sherwood St., by Peter Abrahams (Gr. 4–7): After 12-year-old Robyn stops to help a homeless woman in distress, she finds a charm bracelet that the woman dropped before being carried off in an ambulance. Robyn—or Robbie, as she’s called—picks it up and begins to notice that strange phenomena happens when justice needs to be served. Robbie and three friends form the Outlaws of Sherwood St., a group that robs “from the rich and give to the poor” in their efforts to stop a billionaire from kicking small business owners from their buildings. The billionaire however, has sharp lawyers, and an arsonist, on his side.
10-Minute Selection: Read the second half of chapter 12, beginning with the line, “Getting late, getting cold: we decided to take the subway,” and finish the chapter. Robbie and her new friend Ashanti are followed by two street thugs: “In a flash, they’d wrestled us into this alley I hadn’t even noticed. . . . I remembered that right about now was when you were supposed to scream your head off, and I tried, but no sound came out. The big guy gave me a push, real hard, and I fell to the ground.” The girls channel the energy of the bracelet and begin to float above their tormentors.
How to Catch a Bogle, by Catherine Jinks (Gr. 5–8): Ten-year-old Birdie is an assistant to bogler Alfred Bunce. A bogler catches and kills bogles—monsters that eat children in and around Victorian England. Birdie serves as the bait, and she’s very good at her job. The team’s biggest challenge isn’t the bogles, however. They run up against an evil doctor who “wishes to conjure up a demon so that he can make it serve him.” To ensure that Alfred follows his orders, the doctor kidnaps Birdie and isolates her in a private lunatic asylum.
10-Minute Selection: Read the first two chapters in their entirety. Chapter 1, “The Missing Boys,” introduces the audience to Alfred Bunce and Birdie: “I’m the ’prentice.” They have been hired to rid an upper-class house of a bogle that made off with two chimney-sweep boys. We learn that Birdie is fearless: “Why, it’s no more’n catching a rat. Then Birdie laughed gaily. . . . and went to help Alfred bait his trap.” Chapter 2, “Six Shillings’ Worth,” shows how Birdie does her job. She sings until the bogle appears. Before it snatches her, Alfred spears the creature: “One jab was all it took. Though the monster was quick, it wasn’t quick enough. It spun around, screeching, as Alfred yanked out his staff and then—WHOMP! The foul thing exploded.”
The Raft, by S. A. Bodeen (Gr. 6–9): After Robie boards a cargo plane in Hawaii to return to her home on Midway Island, the plane goes down in the middle of the ocean. The pilot is dead, and Robie finds herself on a raft with the copilot, Max, who appears to be in a coma. There are very few supplies, and at one point, something starts thumping against the bottom of the raft.
10-Minute Selection: Read chapter 5. It opens with the line, “Ten minutes later, although I wouldn’t have believed it possible, the turbulence got worse.” Oxygen masks tumble down, and cargo falls from the overhead bins. The chapter ends with the sentence, “That engine had stopped.” Continue reading the very short chapter 6. The copilot Max comes to Robie and tells her to put on her seat-flotation device. Read chapter 7. Max gives Robie further instructions. When the plane makes noises like “shudders and squeaks and an anguished mechanical groan like something out of a horror movie,” Max opens the exit window and throws Robie out of it.
Mountain of Bones, by Christopher Krovatin (Gr. 5–7): Three sixth-graders get lost in the Montana woods and, after finding an abandoned cabin, quickly learn that the forest is full of zombies and possibly a witch, who controls the creatures. This is the first book in the supernatural Gravediggers series, featuring three unlikely friends: Ian, PJ, and Kendra.
10-Minute Selection: Inform your audience that three sixth-graders are lost in the woods and have found shelter in a cabin. Begin reading a few pages into chapter 8 with the line, “The noise—a loud clank—yanks me off my quilt and into a sitting position.” The kids discover the diary of a girl who went missing a few years ago while with a group of teens. One entry reads, “Almost immediately after setting out on our hike, we realized that something was wrong. Our compasses and electronic devices all stopped working. We could find none of the trails or landmarks that our guidebooks assured us would be there.” The diary goes on to relate how the teens chased a witch out of the cabin. After reading the diary, Ian, PJ, and Kendra hear moans outside and spot six human silhouettes in the woods. The chapter ends with Kendra thinking, “The stumbling, the shriveled faces. . . . it’s on the tip of my tongue. Living dead, walking dead. . . . my mind strains, exhausted, angry. What’s the word I’m looking for—‘zombies.’”
Free Trial, activate profile, or subscribe