I'm a few years behind in reading this but I'm glad I waited. Now I can go right ahead and read The Death Cure without having to wait a year. This is the sequel to The Maze Runner, which I read when it first came out a couple of years ago. Thomas and the surviving Gladers have escaped the maze and now are waiting to find out lots of things, such as who really is behind WICKED? What has happened to the world? Will they ever get their memories restored? Why were they subjected to such a cruel and elaborate "trial"? However, they soon find out that no one is giving out answers to any of their questions. Instead they are thrown into yet another trial. This time they must travel 100 miles through the "scorch" to get to a safe haven. Theresa has disappeared and in her place is a boy who claims to have been part of a similar maze trial with a group of girls called Group B. Our Gladers, AKA Group A, must travel through a hot, dusty wasteland toward an abandoned city populated with cranks that have the flare. (Yes, there is a lot of jargon in this book but it all makes sense when you read it.) Oh, did I mention that WICKED has told the Gladers that they all have been infected with the deadly flare and if they make it to the safe haven they will get the cure? There were enough plot surprises to keep me reading, and some new characters that added to the complexity of this series. My complaint about The Maze Runner was that it didn't have enough character development to make me care about Thomas and Theresa. The Scorch Trials was much better in that regard and I can't wait to hear how their story ends.
This British spy book came highly recommended by my avid 6th grade spy reader, Joshua. He says it's the next best thing to the Alex Rider books. There are 12 books in the series but only 4 are currently available in the U.S. So when one of our teachers went to England in September we had him buy the rest of the series. Our middle school book club read this book this month so I finally read it. As an adult who has read every Alex Rider book I was eager to compare. The hero of the story is an orphaned kid with some problems who is recruited into Britain's elite and secretive child spy agency, CHERUB. He must undergo an unbelievable 100-day training that would probably have killed any normal adult and then is sent on his first real mission. I have to say that I did like the story but I was a bit shocked throughout the book at the language and actions of the 11-year-old main character. It starts right off with an attack, an abusive stepfather, and a drunk and dead mother, and goes on to stealing beer, getting drunk, and a makeout session. I'm making it sound worse than it is, but still, for a book that I thought would be 5th and 6th grade appropriate it was a bit much. As I said the spy story is good, it's just all the other stuff that makes it more for older kids. I would say 7th grade and up for sure.
While this seems in some ways to be Selznick's follow-up to The Invention of Hugo Cabret, it really is a completely different book. There are two seemingly unrelated stories—one told in words and one told entirely in pictures. Ben is orphaned and living on the Gunflint Trail in Northern Minnesota. After his mother dies he finds clues that lead him to look for the father he never knew. His quest eventually leads him to the Museum of Natural History in New York City. The other story (entirely in pictures) is about a girl from the 1920s who is deaf and unhappy and goes on her own quest, also to New York City. The art is lovely and the story is lovely as well. As you might expect, the stories come together in a surprising way as you realize that each child is on a similar voyage of discovery. There are many layers to this book and while it is over 600 pages long, about two-thirds of the book is pictures so don't let its enormous size stop you from a wonderful read. It would make a nice read-aloud for families.