De Rosnay T. (2007). Sarah’s Key. NY: St. Martins Press.
This story takes place in France, Connecticut, New York, and a bit in Italy, switching from contemporary times (2002 – 2005) to World War II. One of the major themes revolves around love, notably the deep love between Sarah and her brother, who are separated.
The story starts in Paris in 1942 when people who were Jewish were being arrested in the middle of the night. Sarah needs to make sure her brother does not get caught so she makes an agonizing but necessary decision to hide him in their secret hiding spot, not knowing that it would be a while until she returns. On the flip side of the story in 2002, Julia is married and has lived in Paris for twenty-two years as a journalist. Currently, she is writing a story about Jewish families during War World II and she discovers a huge secret her father-in-law and his family have harboured, after which she is driven to find Sarah. Continue reading
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.
Iturbe, A. (2017). The Librarian of Auschwitz. NY: Henry Holt.
A Spanish author goes on a hunt for a good story , and through some serious detective work unravels the story of the littlest library in the world. Antonio Iturbe met up with Dita Kraus, who took him all over Prague to the house she grew up in before the Nazis sent her family to the ghetto in Teresin, and then on to the concentration camps.
What follows is a remarkable story of a young girl given the responsibility of protecting the few rare and precious books left in their concentration camp, and her year of horror and dehumanization that follows.
Older teens and young adults will be swept up in Dita’s journey. There is some raw language and violence.
Prendergast, G. (2016). Pandas on the Eastside. Victoria: Orca Book Publishers.
A little book with a fun design on the cover caught my eye, and it was so easy to delve in and imagine East Vancouver during 1972, I had finished the story of Journey Song before I knew it. Part historical fiction, part alternate reality, it’s the story of a wilful and cheeky girl, Journey, and a wide cast of characters who live in Vancouver’s downtown Eastside when two giant pandas were gifted to the American people from the Chinese government. In reality, the transportation of the pandas went smoothly and didn’t stop in Canada, but Prendergast imagines a world where the United States and China have a spat and the pandas are delayed indefinitely in a warehouse in Vancouver; a stop in the trip that never actually happened.
Journey becomes concerned about the pandas’ living conditions in the warehouse Continue reading
Nielsen, J. (2015). A Night Divided. New York: Scholastic.
Dorothy Canfield Fisher Children’s Book Award Nominee (2017)
Top Mighty Girl Books for Teen and Tweens List (2015)
Double Whitney Award winner: Best Middle Grade book and Best Overall Youth Novel (2015)
It took Jennifer Nielsen a mere six short weeks to write A Night Divided. The story of Gerta, a twelve year old girl living in East Berlin under the realm of the Iron Curtain, was begging to be told. During this time of political chaos, Greta’s family becomes dramatically split in two when the first installation of the Berlin Wall was erected overnight. Gerta, her older brother, Fritz, and their mother are left to stay in their apartment, learning to survive while at the same time grappling with tough questions of right versus wrong, and planning a daring escape.
Who doesn’t love a suspenseful escape story with a smart girl leading the charge?! It’s incredible that Continue reading
Kaneko , M. (2016). Are You An Echo? Seattle: Chin Music Press Inc.
edited by by David Jacobson, Sally Ito, and Michiko Tsuboi
I’m going to start with the drawings so they don’t get lost. Toshikado Hajiri’s illustrations in the children’s picturebook, Are You An Echo? are beautiful and make me stop long enough to recognize the beauty not only in the pictures, but before me in my life. Fitting, for the poetry of Misuzu Kaneko is childlike, clear, and feels strong enough to stop time.
It was powerful enough to make Setsuo Yazaki research sixteen years for the Kaneko’s lost poetry. For all he could find was a poem that delighted him. How could someone understand how fish felt? Big Catch: Continue reading
Hardinge , F. (2015). The Lie Tree. New York: Amulet Books.
Costa Book Award for Children’s Book (2015)
Boston Globe-Horn Book Award for Fiction (2016)
Andre Norton Award Nominee Young Adult Science Fiction & Fantasy (2016)
Carnegie Medal Nominee (2016)
Costa Book of the Year (2015)
YA Book Prize Nominee (2016)
Faith Sunderly’s family flees Kent, England for a small and unknown island in order to avoid social gossip surrounding her father’s work, thus providing a dreary backdrop. Historical fiction from the Victorian Era, The Lie Tree takes the adventure story and flips it on its head with a feminist twist. Gender stereotypes are annoyingly prevalent, yet Faith is a strong, intelligent character (“When every door is closed, one learns to climb through windows.”), reminding me much of the young, budding scientist, Calpurnia in The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate by Jaqueline Kelly. Except The Lie Tree is a fantastical fairy tale. Let me explain.
Faith’s father is a natural scientist and is found murdered on the island shortly after the family moves. Investigations lead Faith to discover Continue reading
Lin, G. (2016). When the Sea Turned to Silver. New York: Little, Brown and Company.
Folk tales are told through the spine-tingling adventures of Pinmei and her trusted family friend, Yishan. When the Sea Turned to Silver opens with Pinmei and her grandmother, the village’s storyteller, talking at home one night. Her grandmother tells Pinmei that even though she is a very quiet child, when it is time for you to do something, you will do it. Later that night, soldiers burst into their hut to kidnap the grandmother! Pinmei and Yishan urgently set off for one escapade after the next in a venture to find and bring her home.
This instant classic holds so much substance; it begs to be read and reread, saved in a special spot up on the bookcase. Each chapter heading has an illustration relating to one of the fifteen Continue reading