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2013-2014 Mark Twain Final Nominee Blurbs
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Descriptions courtesy of Goodreads.

Barn Boot Blues (Catherine Friend)

When Taylor’s parents drag her onto a farm, she tries to adapt to life with sheep and goats and chickens. But when the farm’s daily surprises repeatedly embarrass her at school, Taylor wants out. With the help of a new friend, Taylor embarks on a plan to convince her parents to move them back to the city. Just as she succeeds, she discovers---late one night alone in the barn---that a farm has one surprising advantage over city life.

Hidden (Helen Frost)

When Wren Abbott and Darra Monson are eight years old, Darra's father steals a minivan. He doesn't know that Wren is hiding in the back. The hours and days that follow change the lives of bothgirls. Darra is left with a question that only Wren can answer. Wren has questions, too.

Years later, in a chance encounter at camp, the girls face each other for the first time. They can finally learn the truth—that is, if they’re willing to reveal to each other the stories that they’ve hidden for so long. Told from alternating viewpoints, this novel-in-poems reveals the complexities of memory and the strength of a friendship that can overcome pain.

Missing on Superstition Mountain (Elise Broach)

It’s summer and the three Barker brothers—Simon, Henry, and Jack—just moved from Illinois to Arizona. Their parents have warned them repeatedly notto explore Superstition Mountain, which is near their home. But when their cat Josie goes missing, they see no other choice. There’s something unusually creepy about the mountain and after the boys find three human skulls, they grow determined to uncover the mystery. Have people really gone missing over the years, and could there be someone or some thing lurking in the woods? Together with their new neighbor Delilah, the Barker boys are dead-set on cracking the case even if it means putting themselves in harm’s way.

Close to Famous (Joan Bauer)

Foster McFee dreams of having her own cooking show like her idol, celebrity chef Sonny Kroll. Macon Dillard's goal is to be a documentary filmmaker. Foster's mother Rayka longs to be a headliner instead of a back-up singer. And Miss Charleena plans a triumphant return to Hollywood. Everyone has a dream, but nobody is even close to famous in the little town of Culpepper. Until some unexpected events shake the town and its inhabitants-and put their big ambitions to the test.

Sparrow Road (Sheila O’Connor)

It's the summer before seventh grade, and twelve-year- old Raine O'Rourke's mother suddenly takes a job hours from home at mysterious Sparrow Road- a creepy, dilapidated mansion that houses an eccentric group of artists. As Raine tries to make sense of her new surroundings, she forges friendships with a cast of quirky characters including the outrageous and funky Josie.

Together, Raine and Josie decide to solve the mysteries of Sparrow Road-from its haunting history as an orphanage to the secrets of its silent, brooding owner, Viktor. But it's an unexpected secret from Raine's own life that changes her forever.

The Underdogs (Mike Lupica)

Will Tyler can fly on a football field. He may not be the biggest running back around, but no one can touch him when it comes to hitting the hole and finding the end zone. And no one can match his love of the game. When Will has a football in hand, he may as well be flying for real because life can't touch him - his dad isn't so defeated, his town isn't so poor, and everyone has something to cheer for. All of which does him no good if the football season is canceled. With no funding for things like uniforms and a cared-for playing field, with seemingly every other family moving to find jobs, there simply isn't enough money or players for a season. Unless one kid can rally an entire town and give everyone a reason to believe . . .

Will at the Battle of Gettysburg (Laurie Calkhoven)

Twelve-year-old Will wants to be a drummer in the Union army, but he's stuck far from the fighting in his sleepy hometown of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. Then the Union and Confederate armies converge on Gettysburg, and suddenly Will and his family are caught up in the battle.

From delivering important messages and helping the wounded to even saving a young soldier's life, Will takes readers on a firsthand trip through one of the Civil War's most significant battles.

13 Gifts (Wendy Mass)

When Tara, a self-proclaimed shrinking violet, steals the school mascot, a goat, in order to make some friends with the popular crowd and gets caught, she gets herself in a heap of trouble. In addition, her parents decide that instead of taking her on their summer trip to Madagascar to study the courtship rituals of the Bamboo Lemur, she must go stay with her aunt, uncle, and bratty cousin Emily St. Claire in Willow Falls. Tara thinks it's a good time to start over; she'll be turning 13 after all, so she might as well make the best of it and perhaps even attempt to break out of her shell (in a non-criminal manner). What Tara doesn't know is that this charmed town has something big in store for her on her 13th birthday. It's not a typical birthday. But then again, nothing is Willow Falls is exactly typical!

Pie (Sarah Weeks)

When Alice's Aunt Polly, the Pie Queen of Ipswitch, passes away, she takes with her the secret to her world-famous pie-crust recipe. Or does she? In her will, Polly leaves the recipe to her extraordinarily fat, remarkably disagreeable cat, Lardo . . . and then leaves Lardo in the care of Alice.

Suddenly, the whole town is wondering how you leave a recipe to a cat. Everyone wants to be the next big pie-contest winner, and it's making them pie-crazy. It's up to Alice and her friend Charlie to put the pieces together and discover the not-so-secret recipe for happiness: Friendship. Family. And the pleasure of doing something for the right reason.

Wonderstruck (Brian Selznick)

Ben and Rose secretly wish their lives were different. Ben longs for the father he has never known. Rose dreams of a mysterious actress whose life she chronicles in a scrapbook. When Ben discovers a puzzling clue in his mother's room and Rose reads an enticing headline in the newspaper, both children set out alone on desperate quests to find what they are missing. Set fifty years apart, these two independent stories--Ben's told in words, Rose's in pictures--weave back and forth.

The Unwanteds (Lisa McMann)

Every year in Quill, thirteen-year-olds are sorted into categories: the strong, intelligent Wanteds go to university, and the artistic Unwanteds are sent to their deaths.

Thirteen-year-old Alex tries his hardest to be stoic when his fate is announced as Unwanted, even while leaving behind his twin, Aaron, a Wanted. Upon arrival at the destination where he expected to be eliminated, however, Alex discovers a stunning secret— behind the mirage of the "death farm" there is instead a place called Artime.

In Artime, each child is taught to cultivate their creative abilities and learn how to use them magically, weaving spells through paintbrushes and musical instruments. Everything Alex has ever known changes before his eyes, and it's a wondrous transformation.

But it's a rare, unique occurence for twins to be separated between Wanted and Unwanted, and as Alex and Aaron's bond stretches across their separation, a threat arises for the survival of Artime that will pit brother against brother in an ultimate, magical battle.

Shelter (Harlan Coben)

Mickey Bolitar's year can't get much worse. After witnessing his father's death and sending his mom to rehab, he's forced to live with his estranged uncle Myron and switch high schools.

A new school comes with new friends and new enemies, and lucky for Mickey, it also comes with a great new girlfriend, Ashley. For a while, it seems like Mickey's train-wreck of a life is finally improving - until Ashley vanishes without a trace. Unwilling to let another person walk out of his life, Mickey follows Ashley's trail into a seedy underworld that reveals that this seemingly sweet, shy girl isn't who she claimed to be. And neither was Mickey's father. Soon, Mickey learns about a conspiracy so shocking that it makes high school drama seem like a luxury - and leaves him questioning everything about the life he thought he knew.

First introduced to readers in Harlan Coben's latest adult novel, Live Wire, Mickey Bolitar is as quick-witted and clever as his uncle Myron, and eager to go to any length to save the people he cares about.

In Front of God and Everybody (K.D. McCrite)

If God wanted April Grace to be kind to her neighbors, He should have made them nicer!

Growing up in the country is never easy, but it sure is funny--especially if you happen to have a sister obsessed with being glamorous, a grandma just discovering make-up, hippie friends who never shower, and brand new neighbors from the city who test everyone's patience. From disastrous dye jobs to forced apologies and elderly date tagalongs, you read the "Confessions of April Grace.”

Here are just a couple of April's thoughts: On her sister, Myra Sue: "How anyone can be that dumb and still be able to eat with a fork is beyond me." On senior citizen lovebirds: "What if they started smooching right at the table in front of God and everybody?"

In spite of all the loony characters in her life, April Grace is able to learn from her parents as they share the love of God--to even the craziest of characters!

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