My Brother’s Secret

Smith, Dan. My Brother’s Secret. New York: Chicken House, 2015.

Set in 1941 Germany, this story depicts the changes that happen when twelve-year-old Karl realizes that life is not so simple. After his father is killed on the Eastern Front and his family goes to live with his grandparents, he starts to see life differently. Is Hitler really a hero? Are the Nazis noble soldiers? Is his older brother Stefan’s decision to join an underground movement courageous? Does he himself have the courage to stand up against everything he has been taught at school? This novel by an award-winning British writer is recommended for readers 12 years old and up.

P.S. Every novel published by Chicken House is worth checking out. Every story is well-written and memorable for its hope in the face of hardships. 

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North to Benjamin

Cumyn, Alan. North to Benjamin. New York: Atheneum Books For Young Readers, 2018.
Edgar is eleven years old. Not only enough to live on his own. But his mother has problems, which don’t disappear even once they move to Dawson, Yukon to start again. Only a dog named Benjamin is able to help rescue Edgar from certain disaster. This heart-breaking yet hope-filled novel by an award-winning Canadian writer is recommended for readers 11 to 16 years old.

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Houndsley and Catina and Cousin Wagster

Howe, James. Houndsley and Catina and Cousin Wagster. Somerville, Massachusetts: Candlewick Press, 2018.
Houndsley enthusiastically welcomes his adventurous cousin Wagster. But his feelings start to deflate when his best friend Catina turns her attentions to fun-loving Wagster. What will happen? Will Wagster ruin everything? This heart-warming story illustrated by Marie-Louise Gay is sure to appeal to readers 4 to 8 years old. 

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Dark Hours

Pausewang, Gudrun. Dark Hours. Toronto: Annick Press, 2006.
Sixteen-year-old Gisel and her younger siblings flee Russian soldiers during a cold winter in World War 2. Trapped underground after an air raid, Gisel calls on all her courage and ingenuity to enable them to survive. Brilliantly written by an award-winning German author and translated by John Brownjohn, this young adult novel is highly recommended for competent readers 12 years old and up.

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Emil and Karl

Glatshteyn, Yankev. Emil and Karl. New Milford, Conn.: Roaring Brook Press, 2006.
Left alone after three men drag his mother away and threaten to return for him, nine-year old Karl runs to the home of his friend Emil. But he finds no safety. Emil’s mother is not well and is taken away, leaving both boys alone.  Aryan Karl and Jewish Emil struggle to survive in the dangerous world of Nazi-occupied Vienna, Austria. 
Many novels have been written about the Holocaust. But this one is unusual in that it was first published in 1940, before the United States even entered the war. Written in Yiddish and translated into English by Jeffrey Shandler, it is highly recommended for all readers 10 years old and up.

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Ada’s Violin

Hood, Susan. Ada’s Violin: The Story of the Recycled Orchestra of Paraguay. New York: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2016. 

Ada lives in a poverty-stricken town that serves as the main garbage dump for the capital city of Paraguay. She – along with thousands of other residents – spend their days picking through the trash to find things to recycle and sell. This poignant and inspiring story tells how a man sent to teach safety practices decided to teach the children how to make musical instruments. The orchestra he formed has now performed around the world!  Dramatically illustrated by Sally Wern Comport, this true story is recommended for readers 7 years old and up. 

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