Snyder, L. (2017). Orphan Island. MA: Walden Pond Press.
On a special island, only orphaned children live, dropped off one by one, once a year A green boat arrives on the shores, always through thick mist, and drops off the youngest islander and takes away the oldest. The island itself is a safe paradise where no one ever gets hurt by an animal or anything else. The kids may squabble, but nothing major ever happens.
The eldest of the nine children living there has the responsibility of teaching the newest arrival. Throughout the story, Jinny, the eldest, is guiding little Ess. When it is Jinny’s turn to board the green boat that arrives as sure as the sun rises and sets each year, she has different ideas that day.
Orphan Island is centered around themes of childhood and growing up and includes enough magical realism to keep you thinking about it long after the last page is turned.
Curtis, C. (1999). Bud, Not Buddy. NY: Delacorte Books for Young Readers .
John Newbery Award, 2000
Coretta Scott King Award, 2000
Set against the historical backdrop of the Jazz Era during the Depression, Bud will have you howling out loud with laughter, talking back to the book, and cheering on ten-year old Bud Caldwell. Bud (NOT Buddy – there’s a lot to a name!) has been bounced from home to foster home since his mama died when he was six. He’s never known his father, but he has himself convinced his dad must be the famous jazz musician, Herman E. Calloway, because his mama always kept posters of his band. When Bud finds himself on the lam from the Home, he sets off through cardboard jungles and goes on the rails to search for his father. Bud is fortunate enough to own his own suitcase (all the other boys at the Home have to put their belongings in a paper bag or pillow case) where he carefully stores the posters, along with a blanket, and other important necessities that make for a travelling home.
Bud’s sense of humour shows periodically; “Bud Caldwell’s Rules and Things to have a Funner
Gratz, A. (2017). Refugee. NY: Scholastic Press.
Following three children from different places and different time periods in history, Refugee is a gripping and suspenseful story that takes the brave spirit of these seemingly unrelated children and swirls them around in the ocean as they all flee their homelands by boat, then follows them as they struggle to survive, fight to belong, and grapple with issues such as invisibility.
Everything is connected. Josef is escaping a budding Nazi Germany, Isabel flees Castro’s Cuba in the 1990’s, and Mahmoud is running from Syria in present day, yet their journeys tie together in the end. An incredibly timely middle school read, may readers question if we have learned from history or if today’s refugees be treated in the same appalling manner.
Historically accurate, thrilling, and heartbreaking, Refugee will bring you another perspective.
Hennessey, M.G. (2016). The Other Boy. NY: Harper Collins.
Los Angeles has been good to Shane Woods, a twelve year old who likes baseball, comics, and who has lived as a boy since moving there years ago. Everything is going swell. He and his best friend, Josh, even have a spot on the baseball team. But it all comes crashing down when a bully discovers Shane’s secret, one he has not even revealed to Josh yet (he always planned to!) because well, it never seemed to be the right time.
The Other Boy highlights emotional pressures some transgender kids endure in elementary Continue reading
Salerni, D. (2014). Little Monsters. NY: Harper Collins.
Jax Aubrey is a normal orphaned kid. He goes to school, wears normal clothes and hates his incompetent guardian Riley Pendare. On the day after his thirteenth birthday however he wakes up to find out that everybody is gone. Naturally Jax thinks it’s the apocalypse and runs around like crazy until he holes up in his room with a load of supplies. When he wakes up the next day though everybody is back and acting like nothing happened. At this point Jax thinks he’s gone insane. It takes a whole week for Jax to finally find out what’s going on, and to his surprise Riley has the answer. Riley tells Jax that the day everyone had disappeared was called Grunsday. A few people, including Riley himself, called Transitioners have the ability to transition from the real world over to Grunsday, a world where Continue reading
Pennypacker S. (2016). Pax. New York: Balzer + Bray.
A beautifully crafted tale with incredible illustrations by Jon Klassen, Pax is a wonderful story that pulls you in and keeps you reading until the last page. Pax was an orphaned fox cub when his ‘boy,’ Peter, found him by the side of a road. Since then, they’ve been inseparable. Wherever Peter has gone Pax has gone; it feels like they’ve been together forever. Pax was there for Peter when his mom died, and Peter has always been there for Pax. Everything was perfect. Until one day. With the war coming, Peter’s father has signed up for the army. To Pax’s surprise, on the way to Peter’s grandfathers house they stop by the side of a large forest and get out of the car. Peter is crying and Pax can’t figure out what’s wrong. Then Pax is left behind on purpose in the wild and Peter is delivered to live at his grandfather’s house so his father can go to the war. But immediately, Peter is wracked with guilt over allowing his father to convince him to leave a tame fox in the woods, and he embarks on a long, challenging journey through the wild. This sparks two heart wrenching tales, one of a tame fox’s adventures in the wild and the other a story of a boy trying to find his fox.
Nielsen, J. (2016). The Scourge. New York: Scholastic.
In a country named Keldan, a plague wipes out over one-third of the population, effectively shattering the economy and creating a divide between townsfolk and the river people, where the plague is believed to have originated. Nearly three centuries later, the Scourge strikes again, only this time, deadlier. To prevent a catastrophic collapse, Governor Felling randomly pulls people out of their lives for testing to weed out the sick and prevent further contamination. If the test results end up positive, the victim gets shipped off to a quarantined Colony on an isolated island. Ani Mells, our heroine and main protagonist, is separated from her family when she gets plucked from her life among the river people and carted away for testing along with her best friend Weevil. Ani is certain of the fact that she isn’t sick and is desperate to get back home to her family. But when her test ends up showing positive for the plague she is swept up into a twisting plot Continue reading