Mark Twain Nominees

The Water Castle by Megan Frazer Blakemore

Ephraim Appledore-Smith is an ordinary boy, and up until his father’s stroke he lived an ordinary life. But all that changes when his family moves to the Water Castle. Mallory Green’s family has always been the caretakers of the Water Castle-and the guardians of its secrets. Will Wylie’s family has been at war with the Appledores for generations, all because of the Water Castle’s powerful secrets. When Ephraim learns of the Fountain, he’s sure finding it can cure his dad. With Mallory and Will’s help, the trio embarks on a mission that brings them deep into their families’ shared history, through every secret room in the Water Castle.

Navigating Early by Clare Vanderpool

When his mother unexpectedly passes away and his father returns from serving in World War II, Jack Baker’s life is turned upside down. He’s moved from his home in Kansas to a boy’s boarding school in Maine. He meets a unique boy named Early Auden who has an obsession with pi, seeing an unending story in the mathematically significant number. Caught up in their own sorrows, the boys take a chance during a school break to head off on a quest along the Appalachian Trail.

Counting by 7s by Holly Goldberg Sloan

Twelve-year-old Willow Chase lived with her adoptive parents in Bakersfield, California. There in the midst of the high desert, she grew a garden in her backyard, her sanctuary. She was excited about starting a new school, hoping this time she might fit in, might find a friend. Willow had been identified in preschool as highly gifted, most of the time causing confusion and feelings of ineptness in her teachers. While Willow sees herself as just an observer, trying to figure out the social norms of regular family life, she is actually a catalyst for change, bringing together unsuspecting people and changing their lives forever.

Dorko the Magnificent by Andrea Beaty

Robbie Darko is a magician. An old-school, pull-a-rabbit-out-of-your-hat-style magician. Robbie loves magic and he’s good at it—sort of. Despite his best efforts, passion, and practice, something always goes wrong with his tricks, landing Robbie in trouble. Enter crotchety Grandma Melvyn, who calls everyone “Trixie” and complains about everything. Robbie discovers that she was once an internationally renowned magician and learns about the heartache that turned her into a bitter woman. Against all odds, Robbie and Grandma Melvyn form an uneasy alliance to show the world—or at least the kids of Hobson Elementary School—that he is a true magician.

Jinx by Sage Blackwood

Nearly abandoned in a forest by his stepfather, young orphan Jinx lands, instead, in the home of a wizard, Simon. There Jinx, who has always had an ability to see others’ feelings in colors and symbols, develops the ability to communicate with the forest’s trees. But after Simon performs a spell, Jinx loses his capacity as an emotional seer. Jinx sets out into the forest to look for a counterspell and encounters more than he could have imagined.

Will in Scarlet by Matthew Cody

Will Scarlet is on the run. Once the sheltered son of nobility, Will has become an exile. While his father, Lord Shackley, has been on the Crusades with King Richard, a treacherous plot to unseat Richard has swept across England, and Shackley House has fallen. Will flees the only home he’s ever known into neighboring Sherwood Forest, where he joins the elusive gang of bandits known as the Merry Men. Among them are Gilbert, their cruel leader, a giant named John Little, a drunkard named Rob, and Much, an orphan girl disguised as a bandit boy.

Gaby, Lost & Found by Angela Cervantes

“My name is Gaby, and I’m looking for a home where I can invite my best friend over and have a warm breakfast a couple of times a week. Having the newest cell phone or fancy clothes isn’t important, but I’d like to have a cat that I can talk to when I’m home alone.” Gaby Ramirez Howard loves volunteering at the local animal shelter. Gaby has been feeling like a bit of a stray herself, lately. Her mother has recently been deported to Honduras and Gaby is stuck living with her inattentive dad. She’s confident that her mom will come home soon so that they can adopt Gaby’s favorite shelter cat together. When the cat’s original owners turn up at the shelter, however, Gaby worries that her plans for the perfect family are about to fall apart.

Rump: the True Story of Rumpelstiltskin by Liesl Shurtliff

In a magic kingdom where your name is your destiny, 12-year-old Rump is the butt of everyone’s joke. But when he finds an old spinning wheel, his luck seems to change. Rump discovers he has a gift for spinning straw into gold. His best friend, Red Riding Hood, warns him that magic is dangerous, and she’s right. With each thread he spins, he weaves himself deeper into a curse. To break the spell, Rump must go on a perilous quest, fighting off pixies, trolls, poison apples, and a wickedly foolish queen. The odds are against him, but with courage and friendship—and a cheeky sense of humor—he just might triumph in the end.

Escape From Mr. Lemoncello’s Library by Chris Grabenstein

Kyle Keeley is the class clown and a huge fan of all games—board games, word games, and particularly video games. His hero, Luigi Lemoncello, the most notorious and creative gamemaker in the world, just so happens to be the genius behind the construction of the new town library. Lucky Kyle wins a coveted spot as one of twelve kids invited for an overnight sleepover in the library, hosted by Mr. Lemoncello and riddled with lots and lots of games. But when morning comes, the doors stay locked. Kyle and the other kids must solve every clue and figure out every secret puzzle to find the hidden escape route!

The Great Trouble: A Mystery of London, the Blue Death, and a Boy Called Eel by Deborah Hopkinson

Eel has troubles of his own: As an orphan and a “mudlark,” he spends his days in the filthy River Thames, searching for bits of things to sell. He’s being hunted by Fisheye Bill Tyler, and a nastier man never walked the streets of London. And he’s got a secret that costs him four precious shillings a week to keep safe. But even for Eel, things aren’t so bad until that fateful August day in 1854—the day the deadly cholera (“blue death”) comes to Broad Street. Everyone believes that cholera is spread through poisonous air. But one man, Dr. John Snow, has a different theory. As the epidemic surges, it’s up to Eel and his best friend, Florrie, to gather evidence to prove Dr. Snow’s theory—before the entire neighborhood is wiped out.

What We Found in the Sofa and How it Saved the World

by Henry Clark

When River, Freak, and Fiona discover a mysterious sofa sitting at their bus stop, their search for loose change produces a rare zucchini-colored crayon. Little do they know this peculiar treasure is about to launch them into the middle of a plot to conquer the world! The kids’ only hope is to trap the plot’s mastermind when he comes to steal the crayon. But how can three kids from the middle of nowhere stop an evil billionaire? With the help of an eccentric neighbor, an artificially intelligent domino, a DNA-analyzing tray, two hot air balloons, and a cat named Mucus, they just might be able to save the planet.

Al Capone Does My Homework by Gennifer Choldenko

Alcatraz Island in the 1930s isn’t the most normal place to grow up, but it’s home for Moose Flanagan, his autistic sister, Natalie, and all the families of the guards. When Moose’s dad gets promoted to Associate Warden, despite being an unlikely candidate, it’s a big deal. But the cons have a point system for targeting prison employees, and his dad is now in serious danger. After a fire starts in the Flanagan’s apartment, Natalie is blamed, and Moose bands with the other kids to track down the possible arsonist. Then Moose gets a cryptic note from the notorious Al Capone himself. Is Capone trying to protect Moose’s dad, too? If Moose can’t figure out what Capone’s note means, it may be too late.

Not Quite Nominees 

In Search of Goliathus Hercules by Jennifer Angus

This is the fantastic story of Henri Bell, a near-orphan who in 1890 is sent to live with his ancient great-aunt and her extensive button collection. One rainy afternoon, Henri strikes up a conversation with a friendly fly on the windowsill and discovers he possesses the astounding ability to speak with insects. Thus commences an epic journey for Henri as he manages a flea circus, commands an army of beetles, and ultimately sets out to British Malaya to find the mythical giant insect known as Goliathus Hercules. Along the way he makes friends both insect and human, and undergoes a strange transformation of his own.

P.S. Be Eleven by Rita Williams-Garcia

After spending the summer in Oakland, California with their mother and the Black Panthers, Delphine, Vonetta, and Fern arrive home with a newfound streak of independence. The sisters aren’t the only ones who have changed. Now Pa has a girlfriend. Uncle Darnell returns from Vietnam a different man. But Big Ma still expects Delphine to keep her sisters in line. That’s much harder now that Vonetta and Fern refuse to be bossed around. Besides her sisters, Delphine’s got plenty of other things to worry about—like starting sixth grade, being the tallest girl in her class, and dreading the upcoming school dance. The one person she confides in is her mother, Cecile. Through letters, Delphine pours her heart out and receives some constant advice: to be eleven while she can.

The 14 Fibs of Gregory K. by Greg Pincus

Gregory K is the middle child in a family of mathematical geniuses. But if he claimed to love math? Well, he’d be fibbing. What he really wants most is to go to Author Camp. To get his parents’ permission he’s going to have to pass his math class, which has a probability of 0. THAT much he can understand! To make matters worse, he’s been playing fast and loose with the truth: “I LOVE math” he tells his parents. “I’ve entered a citywide math contest!” he tells his teacher. “We’re going to author camp!” he tells his best friend, Kelly. And now, somehow, he’s going to have to make good on his promises.

Doll Bones by Holly Black

Zach, Poppy, and Alice have been friends forever. And for almost as long, they’ve been playing one continuous, ever-changing game of pirates and thieves, mermaids and warriors. Ruling over all is the Great Queen, a bone-china doll cursing those who displease her. But they are in middle school now. Zach’s father pushes him to give up make-believe, and Zach quits the game. Their friendship might be over, until Poppy declares she’s been having dreams about the Queen—and the ghost of a girl who will not rest until the bone-china doll is buried in her empty grave. Zach and Alice and Poppy set off on one last adventure to lay the Queen’s ghost to rest. But nothing goes according to plan, and as their adventure turns into an epic journey, creepy things begin to happen. Is the doll just a doll or something more sinister? And if there really is a ghost, will it let them go now that it has them in its clutches?

The Hypnotists by Gordon Korman

Jackson Opus has always been persuasive, but he doesn’t know that he’s descended from the two most powerful hypnotist bloodlines on the planet. He’s excited to be accepted into a special program at the Sentia Institute — but when he realizes he’s in over his head, Jackson will have to find a way to use his powers to save his friends, his parents, and his government.

Brotherhood by A.B. Westrick

The year is 1867, the South has been defeated, and the American Civil War is over. But the conflict goes on. Yankees now patrol the streets of Richmond, Virginia, and its citizens, both black and white, are struggling to redefine their roles and relationships. By day, fourteen-year-old Shadrach apprentices with a tailor and sneaks off for reading lessons with Rachel, a freed slave, at her school for African-American children. By night he follows his older brother Jeremiah to the meetings of a group whose stated mission is to protect Confederate widows like their mother. But as the true murderous intentions of the group, now known as the Ku Klux Klan, are revealed, Shad finds himself trapped between old loyalties and what he knows is right.

An Army of Frogs by Trevor Pryce

For years, the frogs of the Amphibilands have lived in safety—protected by an elite group of poisonous frogs named the Kulipari and by the dreamcasting spell of the turtle king that cloaks their lands in mystery. Now the spell is threatened by the Spider Queen, a talented spellcaster, and Lord Marmoo, leader of the scorpions. With the Kulipari off training in secret, the Amphibilands have never been so vulnerable. Enter Darel, a young frog who dreams of joining the Kulipari, despite his utter lack of poison and limited fighting skills. With the help of a motley crew of friends, Darel has the chance to become the warrior of his dreams.

The Misadventures of the Magician’s Dog by Frances Sackett

Peter Lubinsky doesn’t even like dogs and can’t understand why he asked for one for his birthday. But it turns out that this pet, whom Peter calls The Dog, can talk and do magic—and he needs Peter’s help. In return, The Dog promises to teach Peter conjuring and to help him bring his father home from the Middle East, where he is deployed with the air force. Soon Peter finds himself flying through the air on a mission to rescue The Dog’s master. But as Peter’s magical powers grow, he finds himself filled with a dark anger.

The Sasquatch Escape by Suzanne Selfors

When Ben Silverstein is sent to the rundown town of Buttonville to spend the summer with his grandfather, he’s certain it will be the most boring vacation ever. That is, until his grandfather’s cat brings home what looks like . . . a baby dragon? Amazed, Ben enlists the help of Pearl Petal, a local girl with an eye for adventure. They take the wounded dragon to the only veterinarian’s office in town — Dr. Woo’s Worm Hospital. But as Ben and Pearl discover once they are inside, Dr. Woo’s isn’t a worm hospital at all — it’s actually a secret hospital for imaginary creatures. After Ben accidentally leaves the hospital’s front door unlocked, a rather large, rather stinky, and very hairy beast escapes into Buttonville. Ben and Pearl are tasked with retrieving the runaway creature, and what started out as an ordinary summer becomes the story of a lifetime.