Follow me…

Dowell, Frances O’Roark. Trouble the Water. New York: Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2016.

An old yellow dog brings Cassie and Wendell – a black girl and a white boy – together in racially segregated Kentucky in 1953. Buddy leads them to a ramshackle cabin in the woods where two invisible boys are waiting to cross the nearby river. Partly historical fiction, partly a ghost story, this memorable novel by a thought-provoking writer is highly recommended for readers 10 to 15 years old.

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P.S. Do you know the story of how Jesus healed the sick man by the pool of Bethesda? The man who never got to the pool in time to be healed after an angel ‘troubled the water’? You might like to read about it in John 5 after you read Dowell’s story. Then you might like to think about the Pharisees in the Bible and the townspeople in the story. And think about that pool at the end of the novel. Might you be called to be an angel?

Surviving the winter…

Kerr, Philip. The Winter Horses. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2014.
Kalinka, a Jewish orphan girl, hides from Nazi soldiers during the winter of 1941. On the wind-blown plains of the Ukraine, she meets an elderly man and two wild horses who help her flee from danger. This fascinating story of the rare Przewalski horses will intrigue readers who enjoy historical fiction. While the novel is somewhat awkwardly written – as if the author is explaining the story rather than letting it come to life – it nevertheless provides a unique perspective on World War 2 and so is recommended for readers 11 to 16 years of age.

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Who do you think you are?

Boyne, John. The Boy at the Top of the Mountain. Toronto: Doubleday Canada, 2015.
When Pierrot is four years old, his father – a German soldier in the Great War – disappears. When Pierrot is seven years old, his French mother dies in a Parisian hospital. He is sent to live with his Aunt Beatrix, a housekeeper for Adolf Hitler. It is 1935 and life is changing in Europe.
What happens when people flatter us and make us feel important? What happens when lies start to sound like truth? What happens when we realize we’ve betrayed the people who love us?
Spanning the course of World War II and its aftermath, this 215-page novel by a breathtakingly powerful writer is highly recommended for mature readers 11-years-old and up. [France; Germany; Historical fiction; Hitler, Adolf; Orphans; Self-awareness]  

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Pearl’s Dream

Parry, Rosanne. Written in Stone. New York: Random House, 2013.
A grandmother recalls her youth in the 1920s. Her tribe, the Makah on the Olympic Peninsula in Washington State, struggles to survive after Pearl’s father dies and outsiders threaten her people’s way of life. This engrossing 175-page story – told from the first person point of view – is accompanied by a map, a glossary, an extensive author’s note explaining historical details, and a list of resources. The relatively large font makes the book inviting for competent readers as young as 10 years old. The quality of the writing and depth of historical information make this a compelling novel for readers of any age. Highly recommended!

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Adventure and courage

Kelly, Jacqueline. The Curious World of Calpurnia Tate. New York: Henry Holt and Company, 2015.
Twelve-year-old Callie continues her investigations into the natural world in this sequel to the Newbery Honor Book The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate. When a veterinarian comes to town, Callie expands her knowledge of animal care but secretly, as only her grandfather encourages her dreams and hopes for the future.  Observant readers will notice that each chapter begins with a quotation from The Voyage of the Beagle by Charles Darwin, the English naturalist whose own father disapproved of his unconventional life but whose maternal grandfather encouraged him. This 312-page novel is highly recommended for readers 10 years old and up.  

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A Wild Pet

Kelly, Jacqueline. Skunked! New York: Henry Holt and Company, 2016.
Eleven-year-old Travis adopts two baby skunks in this historical novel for young readers. Set in a small Texan town in 1901, this easy-to-read story focuses on the younger brother of Callie, the main character in two previous novels for older readers: The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate and The Curious World of Calpurnia Tate. While this new novel still features Callie as narrator, the action centres on Travis and his escapades with two wild creatures. A great story for readers 7 to 11 years old. [Country life; historical fiction; naturalists; pets; skunks; Texas]

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Let me learn!

Hopkinson, Deborah. Steamboat School: Inspired by a True Story. Los Angeles: Disney•Hyperion, 2016. 

A law against educating African Americans was established in Missouri in 1847. But a minister – John Meachum – found a way around this restriction by creating a school in the middle of the Mississippi River. Ron Hubbard, the first African American animator at Disney Studios, provides vivid illustrations for this moving story useful as a read-aloud for readers 9 years old and up. An afterward provides additional information including recommended websites and books. [African Americans; Historical fiction; Missouri;  Racism; Schools]

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